Dusty discs around evolved stars

  • Foteini Lykou

Student thesis: Phd


From the main sequence onwards, stars of intermediate masses (1-8 Solar masses) eject a large portion of their mass with rates as high as 0.0001 Solar masses per year during their transition through the Asymptotical Giant Branch (AGB) stage. The outflows are shaped by the same mechanisms that shape the ejecta, which in turn appear to depart from spherical symmetry as early as the AGB stage. The ejecta are then evolving into asymmetrical structures. Stars like that are giant factories of dust, responsible for the enrichment of their surrounding Galactic medium in metals heavier than helium. Depending on their abundances during the AGB stage, the stars are either oxygen-rich or carbon-rich, and as such, the dust produced in their atmospheres is either O-rich or C-rich. The chemical composition of the ejecta, indicates the stellar chemistry at the moment of ejection. The disruption of the spherical symmetry of the mass loss can be caused by fast rotation, stellar magnetic fields or binarity, the latter being the most efficient and favourable mechanism. Such mechanisms can lead to the creation of circumstellar, equatorial, dusty structures, like discs, torii or spirals. Due to their small relative sizes, compared to their surrounding nebulae, they can be studied at best with the use of infrared interferometric techniques. We report the discovery of three such structures in sources at three different evolutionary stages, respectively, with the use of single- and multi-aperture interferometry. In the C-rich AGB star V Hya we imaged via aperture masking in the near-infrared, a complex and possibly orbiting structure, which is embedded within the star's molecular torus. Our MIDI observations in the mid-infrared have revealed, a silicate disc within the symbiotic nebula M2-9 that is currently being shaped by the central binary system within its core, and a C-rich disc-like structure in the born-again star Sakurai's Object, that is also aligned to an asymmetry found in its surrounding planetary nebula. Finally, we compare the properties of the structures found here with those found in the literature in order to establish a relation between late stellar evolution and the existence of dusty structures.
Date of Award31 Dec 2013
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorAlbert Zijlstra (Supervisor)


  • stellar evolution
  • interferometry
  • dust
  • discs
  • AGB stars
  • planetary nebulae

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