The VLT/SPHERE view of the ATOMIUM cool evolved star sample. I. Overview: Sample characterization through polarization analysis

M. Montargès, E. Cannon, A. de Koter, T. Khouri, E. Lagadec, P. Kervella, L. Decin, I. McDonald, W. Homan, L. B. F. M. Waters, R. Sahai, C. A. Gottlieb, J. Malfait, S. Maes, B. Pimpanuwat, M. Jeste, T. Danilovich, F. De Ceuster, M. Van de Sande, D. GobrechtS. H. J. Wallström, K. T. Wong, I. El Mellah, J. Bolte, F. Herpin, A. M. S. Richards, A. Baudry, S. Etoka, M. D. Gray, T. J. Millar, K. M. Menten, H. S. P. Müller, J. M. C. Plane, J. Yates, A. Zijlstra

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Aims. Through the ATOMIUM project, based on an ALMA large program, we aim to present a consistent view of a sample of 17 nearby cool evolved stars (Aymptotic Giant Branch and red supergiant stars). Methods. Here we present VLT/SPHERE-ZIMPOL polarimetric maps obtained in the visible of 14 out of the 17 ATOMIUM sources. They were obtained contemporaneously with the ALMA high spatial resolution data. To help interpret the polarized signal, we produced synthetic maps of light scattering by dust, through 3D radiative transfer simulations with the RADMC3D code. Results. The degree of linear polarization (DoLP) observed by ZIMPOL spreads across several optical filters. We infer that it primarily probes dust located just outside of the point spread function, and in or near the plane of the sky, with a total optical depth close to unity in the line of sight, representing only a fraction of the total circumstellar dust. The maximum DoLP ranges from 0.03-0.38 depending on the source, fractions that can be reproduced by our 3D pilot models for grains composed of common dust species. The spatial structure of the DoLP shows a diverse set of shapes. Only for three sources do we note a correlation between the ALMA CO and SiO lines, which trace the gas density, and the DoLP, which traces the dust. Conclusion. The clumpiness of the DoLP and the lack of a consistent correlation between the gas and the dust location show that, in the inner circumstellar environment (CSE), dust formation occurs at very specific sites. This has potential consequences for the derived mass-loss rates and dust-to-gas ratio in the inner region of the CSE. Except for $\pi^1$~Gru and perhaps GY Aql, we do not detect interactions between the circumstellar wind and the hypothesized companions that shape the wind at larger scales. This suggests that the orbits of any other companions are tilted out of the plane of the sky.
Original languageUndefined
Publication statusPublished - 5 Jan 2023


  • astro-ph.SR
  • astro-ph.EP
  • astro-ph.GA

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