Journal Article

On the formation and abundance of CO in envelopes of asymptotic giant branch stars

R. Papoular

in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

Published on behalf of The Royal Astronomical Society

Volume 390, issue 4, pages 1727-1732
Published in print November 2008 | ISSN: 0035-8711
Published online October 2008 | e-ISSN: 1365-2966 | DOI:
On the formation and abundance of CO in envelopes of asymptotic giant branch stars

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It is generally considered, as a rule of thumb, that carbon monoxide forms very early in envelopes of asymptotic giant branch (AGB) stars, and that it consumes most of the carbon, or most of the oxygen, depending on whether the photosphere is oxygen-rich or carbon-rich, respectively. This work focuses on the latter case, with the purpose of quantifying the remaining fraction of gaseous carbon which is then available for forming carbonaceous grains. Since AGB stars are (probably) the main providers of cosmic carbon grains, this residual fraction is essential in establishing the validity of current grain models. Here, we use a kinetic treatment to follow the chemical evolution of circumstellar shells towards steady state. It is shown that the residual fraction depends essentially on the atomic ratio of pristine gaseous carbon and oxygen, and on the cross-section for CH formation by collision of C and H atoms. It lies between 55 and 144 C atoms per 106 H atoms, depending on the values adopted for unknown reaction rates and cosmic C abundance. This is much larger than predicted by the rule of thumb recalled above.

The present results depend strongly on the rate of the reaction C+H→CH: far from thermodynamic equilibrium (which is the case here), CO cannot be formed if this rate is as low as generally assumed. We have, therefore, estimated this rate by chemically modelling the reaction and found it indeed much higher, and high enough to yield CO abundances compatible with observations. An accurate experimental rate determination is highly desirable.

Keywords: astrochemistry; molecular processes; stars: AGB and post-AGB; stars: carbon; circumstellar matter; dust, extinction

Journal Article.  4476 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Astronomy and Astrophysics

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