Organic molecules, ions, and rare isotopologues in the remnant of the stellar-merger candidate, CK Vulpeculae (Nova 1670)

T. Kamiński, K. M. Menten, R. Tylenda, A. Karakas, A. Belloche, N. A. Patel

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Abstract

Context. CK Vulpeculae (CK Vul) is an enigmatic star whose outburst was observed in 1670-72. A stellar-merger event was proposed to explain its ancient eruption. Aims. We aim to investigate the composition of the molecular gas recently discovered in the remnant of CK Vul. Deriving the chemical, elemental, and isotopic composition is crucial for identifying the nature of the object and obtaining clues on its progenitor(s). Methods. We observed millimeter and submillimeter-wave spectra of CK Vul using the IRAM 30 m and APEX telescopes. Radiative-transfer modeling of the observed molecular features was performed to yield isotopic ratios for various elements. Results. The spectra of CK Vul reveal a very rich molecular environment of low excitation (Tex ≲ 12 K). Atomic carbon and twenty-seven different molecules, including two ions, were identified. They range from simple diatomic to complex polyatomic species of up to seven atoms large. The chemical composition of the molecular gas is indicative of carbon and nitrogen-driven chemistry but oxides are also present. Additionally, the abundance of fluorine may be enhanced. The spectra are rich in isotopologues that are very rare in most known sources. All stable isotopes of C, N, O, Si, and S are observed and their isotopic ratios are derived. Conclusions. The composition of the remnant's molecular gas is most peculiar and gives rise to a very unique millimeter and submillimeter spectrum. The observation of ions and complex molecules suggests the presence of a photoionizing source but its nature (a central star or shocks) remains unknown. The elemental and isotopic composition of the gas cannot be easily reconciled with standard stellar nucleosynthesis but processing in hot CNO cycles and partial helium burning can explain most of the chemical peculiarities. The isotopic ratios of CK Vul are remarkably close to those of presolar "nova grains" but the link of Nova 1670 to objects responsible for these grains is unclear. The accuracy of isotopic ratios can be improved by future observations at higher angular resolutions and with realistic models of the kinematical structure of the remnant.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberA78
Number of pages66
JournalAstronomy & Astrophysics
Volume607
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2017

Keywords

  • Atlases
  • Circumstellar matter
  • Stars: Individual: CK Vul
  • Stars: Low-mass
  • Stars: Peculiar
  • Submillimeter: Stars

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