Authors: Quintana-Lacaci, G.; Velilla-Prieto, L.; Agundez, M.; Fonfria, J. P.; Cernicharo, J.; Decin, L.; Castro-Carrizo, A.


Publication date: 2023/05/01

DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361/202244396

Abstract: Context. Red supergiant stars (RSGs, M-init=10-40 M-circle dot) are known to eject large amounts of material, as much as half of their initial mass during this evolutionary phase. However, the processes powering the mass ejection in low- and intermediate-mass stars do not work for RSGs and the mechanism that drives the ejection remains unknown. Different mechanisms have been proposed as responsible for this mass ejection including Alfven waves, large convective cells, and magnetohydrodynamical (MHD) disturbances at the photosphere, but so far little is known about the actual processes taking place in these objects. Aims. Here we present high angular resolution interferometric ALMA maps of VY CMa continuum and molecular emission, which resolve the structure of the ejecta with unprecedented detail. The study of the molecular emission from the ejecta around evolved stars has been shown to be an essential tool in determining the characteristics of the mass loss ejections. Our aim is thus to use the information provided by these observations to understand the ejections undergone by VY CMa and to determine their possible origins. Methods. We inspected the kinematics of molecular emission observed. We obtained position-velocity diagrams and reconstructed the 3D structure of the gas traced by the different species. It allowed us to study the morphology and kinematics of the gas traced by the different species surrounding VY CMa. Results. Two types of ejecta are clearly observed: extended, irregular, and vast ejecta surrounding the star that are carved by localized fast outflows. The structure of the outflows is found to be particularly flat. We present a 3D reconstruction of these outflows and proof of the carving. This indicates that two different mass loss processes take place in this massive star. We tentatively propose the physical cause for the formation of both types of structures. These results provide essential information on the mass loss processes of RSGs and thus of their further evolution.