AAS 205th Meeting, 9-13 January 2005
Session 12 Stellar Atmospheres
Poster, Monday, January 10, 2005, 9:20am-6:30pm, Exhibit Hall

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[12.09] The volatile OH Mainline Masers of R Leo

B. M. Lewis (Arecibo Observatory)

R Leo was observed soon after the Arecibo upgrade, in mid-1999, when its principal 1665 & 1667 MHz masers respectively had intensities of 2.2 & 3.2 Jy: these had completely disappeared by mid-2002. The 1665 MHz maser has never exceeded 10 mJy since, while the 1667 has never exceeded 70 mJy. Moreover the initial decline of both, by factors of \geq 25, occurred in 10 months. Though both masers recovered by a factor of \geq 3 soon after, this was immediately followed by a sharp decline from which they have never rallied. The 1667 MHz maser declined from 1000 to 27 mJy over the first 9 months of 2001, and even more quickly, from 60 to 24 mJy, in 36 days through September 2004.

This behaviour contrasts sharply with that of 1612 MHz masers of normal OH/IR stars, which commonly vary by a factor of three around the pulsation cycle, and which have on occasion been observed to disappear with an e-folding time of ~1 yr (ApJ 548, L77). Nor is this difference simply the usual pulsational variation of OH mainlines, as those of R LMi only vary in intensity by a factor of three. We conclude that the mainline masers of R Leo are unusually volatile, and prone to an order of magnitude more variability than most such masers.

The NIR colors of OH/IR stars follow a well-defined locus, whose entire extent is traversed \leq 60 yr after the cessation of mass-loss. Lewis (BAAS 35, 1358) therefore argues that the rapid loss of 1612 MHz masers is set by changes in the maser pump following on changes in the reprocessing of stellar radiation by dust in the inner environs of its circumstellar shell. But the pumping of OH mainline masers is even more sensitive to the details of IR-line overlap than the 1612. The amplitude and brevity of changes in the OH mainline masers of R Leo therefore suggest that these are generated by small changes in IR line overlap.

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