Carbon isotope ratios in planetary nebulae: The unexpected enhancement of 13C

L. M. Ziurys, D. R. Schmidt, N. J. Woolf

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1 Scopus citations

Abstract

The 12C/13C ratio has been measured toward a sample of planetary nebulae (PNe) using millimeter observations of CO, HCN, HNC, CN, and other species, conducted with the 12 m antenna and the Submillimeter Telescope of the Arizona Radio Observatory. The observed nebulae spanned the entire lifetime of PNe, from ∼900 to 12,000 yr, and include well-known objects such as NGC 7293 (Helix), NGC 6720 (Ring), and NGC 2440, as well as relatively unexplored nebulae (M3-28, M2-48, and M3-55). In most cases, multiple molecules and transitions were used in the ratio determination, resulting in the most accurate values available to date, with 10%-40% uncertainties. The ratios found were unexpectedly low, lying in the range 12C/13C ∼1.0 ± 0.7-13.2 ± 4.9, with an average value of 3.7 - drastically less than found in the envelopes of C-rich AGB stars, and, in some cases, lower than the minimum value achieved in equilibrium CNO burning. Such low values are expected for the two O-rich nebulae studied (M2-9 and M2-48), because of insufficient third dredge-up events. However, most of the PNe observed were clearly carbon-rich, as deduced from the large number of C-bearing molecules present in them. Because nucleosynthesis ceases in the PN stage, both the C/O and the 12C/13C ratios must reflect abundances at the end of the AGB. These consistently low 12C/13C ratios, combined with the bipolar/multipolar morphologies of all planetary nebulae observed, suggest an explosive process involving proton-capture occurred at the AGB-PN transition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberL31
JournalAstrophysical Journal Letters
Volume900
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 10 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science

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