Journal Article

An unbiased pilot survey for Galactic water masers

J. L. Caswell and S. L. Breen

in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

Published on behalf of The Royal Astronomical Society

Volume 407, issue 4, pages 2599-2610
Published in print October 2010 | ISSN: 0035-8711
Published online July 2010 | e-ISSN: 1365-2966 | DOI:
An unbiased pilot survey for Galactic water masers

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The Australia Telescope Compact Array has been used in a fast surveying mode to study the 22-GHz transition of water in two small sample regions of the southern Galactic plane. The observations allow an unbiased search for water masers, including any that may have no association with masers from other molecules (or indeed, no association with any other detectable celestial object). Positions with arcsecond accuracy were obtained from the original survey data for detected sources, and these were re-observed at an epoch more than two years later. Variability of the spectra between the epochs was considerable: our total of 32 masers comprises 24 detected at both epochs, two detected at only the first epoch and six detected at only the follow-up epoch. The success of our surveying mode shows it to be a practical strategy for the difficult task of extending unbiased water maser surveys to a large portion of the Galactic plane. Our results show quantitatively the effect of variability on the completeness of surveys conducted at a single epoch.

Most of our maser detections are new discoveries. Only four had previously been detected (in searches towards interesting targets in the survey area). The high density of water masers from our unbiased survey supports earlier suggestions that they are the most populous maser species, and one of the most sensitive and reliable tracers of massive young stellar objects – newly forming massive young stars. The spectra of nine masers show high-velocity emission, and they show a striking preponderance of blueshifted high-velocity features. This is compatible with such blueshifts being a characteristic of populations dominated by masers at the earliest evolutionary stage of star formation, in some cases prior to the onset of methanol masers. Amongst the high-velocity emission sources there are two new examples where blueshifted high-velocity outflows dominate the total emission; these substantially increase the previously known meagre population of five such objects and suggest that they may be surprisingly abundant.

Keywords: masers; surveys; stars: formation; ISM: molecules

Journal Article.  8454 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Astronomy and Astrophysics

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