Terahertz water masers. II. Further SOFIA/GREAT detections toward circumstellar outflows, and a multitransition analysis

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Publication Title

Astrophysical Journal








Following up on our discovery of terahertz water masers, reported in 2017, we report two further detections of water maser emission at frequencies above 1 THz. Using the GREAT instrument on SOFIA, we have detected emission in the 1.296411 THz 827 − 734 transition of water toward two additional oxygen-rich evolved stars, omicron Ceti (Mira) and R Crateris, and obtained an upper limit on the 1.296 THz line emission from U Orionis. Toward these three sources, and toward the red supergiant star VY Canis Majorae from which 1.296 THz line emission was reported previously, we have also observed several lower-frequency (sub)millimeter water maser transitions using the APEX 12 m telescope along with the 22 GHz transition using the Effelsberg 100 m telescope. We have used a simple model to analyze the multitransition data thereby obtained. Adopting, as a prior, independent literature estimates of the mass-loss rates in these four sources and in W Hydrae, we infer water abundances in a remarkably narrow range: n(H2O)/n(H2) = 1.4-2.5 × 10−4. For o Cet, VY CMa, and W Hya, the model is successful in predicting the maser line fluxes to within a typical factor ∼1.6-3. For R Crt and U Ori, the model is less successful, with typical line flux predictions lying an order of magnitude above or below the observations; such discrepancies are perhaps unsurprising given the exponential nature of maser amplification.

Funding Number

50 OK 110

Funding Sponsor

National Aeronautics and Space Administration


Physics and Astronomy