AAS 205th Meeting, 9-13 January 2005
Session 138 Planetary and Reflection Nebulae and WR Bubbles
Poster, Thursday, January 13, 2005, 9:20am-4:00pm, Exhibit Hall

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[138.08] HST/NICMOS Imaging Polarimetry of Proto-Planetary Nebulae: Probing of the Dust Shell Structure via Polarized Light

T. Ueta (NASA Ames Research Center/Royal Observatory of Belgium), K. Murakawa (ASTRON, The Netherland/Subaru Telescope), M. Meixner (STScI)

Using HST/NICMOS, we have performed imaging polarimetry of proto-planetary nebulae. Our objective is to study the structure of optically thin circumstellar shells of post-asymptotic giant branch stars by separating dust-scattered, linearly polarized star light from unpolarized direct star light. This unique technique allows us to probe faint reflection nebulae around the bright central star, which can be buried under the point-spread-function of the central star in conventional imaging. Our observations and archival search have yielded polarimetric images for five sources. These images have revealed the circumstellar dust distribution in an unprecedented detail via polarized intensity maps, providing a basis to understand the 3-D structure of these dust shells. We have observationally confirmed the presence of the inner cavity caused by the cessation of AGB mass loss and the internal shell structures which is strongly tied to the progenitor star's mass loss history on the AGB. We have also found that equatorial enhancement in these circumstellar shells comes with various degrees of contrast, suggesting a range of optical depths in these optically thin shells. Our data support the interpretation that the dichotomy of PPN morphologies is due primarily to differences in optical depth and secondary to the inclination effect. The polarization maps reveal a range of inclination angles for these optically thin reflection nebulae, dispelling the notion that elliptical nebulae are pole-on bipolar nebulae.

The author(s) of this abstract have provided an email address for comments about the abstract: toshiya_ueta@fastmail.us

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© 2004. The American Astronomical Society.