RY scuti: Infrared and radio observations of the mass-loss wind of a massive binary star system

R. D. Gehrz, T. L. Hayward, J. R. Houck, J. W. Miles, R. M. Hjellming, T. J. Jones, Charles E. Woodward, Ricarda Prentice, W. J. Forrest, S. Libonate, S. Solomon

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We report infrared (IR) imaging, IR photometry, IR spectroscopy, optical/IR photopolarimetry, and VLA radio observations of the peculiar binary star RY Scuti. These observations provide an unprecedented view of the detailed spatial structure of the equatorial mass-loss wind of a massive, luminous, "overcontact" binary system. The binary star (0.43 AU separation) is surrounded by a flattened equatorial disk with an outer radius of ≈3 × 1016 cm (2000 AU) that emits strongly in the IR and radio. The inside of the disk is ionized and emits free-free radiation from hydrogen and 12.8 μm forbidden-line emission from [Ne II]; the outside of the disk emits thermal radiation from silicate dust. Radio continuum emission is also produced in a compact H II region surrounding the binary. The dust may have a polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) component. We use a rudimentary geometric model in which the thermal IR and radio emission from the disk are assumed to arise in a pair of concentric toroidal rings to estimate the physical properties of the disk. The mean radius of the ionized gas toroid is ≈1.3 × 1016 cm (870 AU), and the mean radius of the dust toroid is ≈2.2 × 1016 cm (1470 AU). RY Scuti has a small intrinsic polarization, with the electric vector perpendicular to the equatorial disk, that is probably caused by electron scattering from hot gas close to the central binary. We conclude that neon in the nebula is overabundant with respect to hydrogen and helium by a factor of between 1.6 and 10. Our IR/radio image data suggest that the circumstellar disk is part of an extensive radiation driven mass-loss outflow that is strongly confined to the equatorial plane of the binary system. The sharp spatial separation of the outer dust torous from the inner ionized gas torus confirms earlier suggestions that dust formation in the circumstellar ejecta of very hot stars must occur in regions that are shielded from the hard radiation field.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)417-430
Number of pages14
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 20 1995


  • Binaries: close
  • Circumstellar matter
  • Infrared: stars
  • Radio continuum: stars
  • Stars: individual (RY Scuti)
  • Stars: mass loss


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