Stars of initial mass greater than 9 M_sun become red supergiants (RSGs), a short-lived stage during which they experience mass-loss that strongly influences their post-RSG evolution and end state. The highest luminosity RSGs, referred to here as hypergiants, experience episodic mass-loss whose mechanism remains poorly understood and motivates observations to help constrain it. This thesis studies mass loss from hypergiant stars with near-to-mid infrared imaging over a range of angular scales. The recent mass-loss history of the extreme red supergiant VY Canis Majoris and the warm hypergiant star IRC +10420 are studied at the sub-arcsecond scale with adaptive optics imaging and imaging polarimetry from 1 - 5 micron using LMIRCam on the Large Binocular Telescope (LBT) and MMT-Pol at the MMT Observatory. The nebular features of VY CMa are found to be highly polarized at 1.3 and 3.1 micron, with optically thick scattering required to reproduce the observed surface brightness. The flux of VY CMa's peculiar ``Southwest Clump'' is demonstrated to be due almost entirely to optically thick scattering, with little thermal emission, and with a lower limit mass of 5E-03 M_sun in this single feature. The imaging polarimetry of IRC +10420 at 2.2 micron resolves nebular emission with intrinsic polarization of 30%, with a high surface brightness indicating optically thick scattering largely in the plane of the sky. Using the polarimetry to constrain the scattered light emission, it is shown that the nebula's the emission is mostly thermal with a color temperature well above that for typical astrophysical dust. To probe further into hypergiants' history of mass-loss, mid-IR imaging with MMT/ MIRAC and SOFIA/FORCAST is used to study VY CMa, IRC +10420 and two additional hypergiants: the RSG mu Cep and the warm hypergiant rho Cas. Using DUSTY 1-D radiative transfer models, mu Cep's mass-loss rate is found to have declined by about a factor of 5 over a 13,000 history, ranging from 5E-06 down to ~1E-06 M_sun / yr. The morphology of VY CMa indicates a cooler dust component coincident with the highly asymmetric reflection nebulae seen in the visual and near-IR. The lack of cold dust at greater distances around VY CMa indicates its mass-loss history is limited to the last ~1200 years, with an average rate of 6E-04 M_sun / yr. Two distinct periods are found in the mass-loss history of IRC +10420, with a high rate of 2E-03 M_sun / yr until approximately 2000 yr ago, followed by an order of magnitude decrease in the recent past, with the change indicating its evolution beyond the RSG stage. The new infrared photometry of rho Cas is consistent with emission from the expanding dust shell ejected in its 1946 eruption, with no evidence of newer dust formation from its more recent events.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. January 2016. Major: Astrophysics. Advisor: Terry Jones. 1 computer file (PDF); x, 103 pages.
A Study of Hypergiant Mass Loss in the Near-To-Mid Infrared: VY CMa, IRC +10420, mu Cep and rho Cas.
Retrieved from the University of Minnesota Digital Conservancy,
Content distributed via the University of Minnesota's Digital Conservancy may be subject to additional license and use restrictions applied by the depositor.