A mid-IR interferometric survey with MIDI/VLTI: resolving the second-generation protoplanetary disks around post-AGB binaries

M. Hillen, H. Van Winckel, J. Menu, R. Manick, J. Debosscher, M. Min, W. J. De Wit, T. Verhoelst, D. Kamath, L. B. F. M. Waters

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29 Citations (Scopus)


Aims: We present a mid-IR interferometric survey of the circumstellar environment of a specific class of post-asymptotic giant branch (post-AGB) binaries. For this class the presence of a compact dusty disk has been postulated on the basis of various spatially unresolved measurements. The aim is to determine the angular extent of the N-band emission directly and to resolve the compact circumstellar structures. Methods: Our interferometric survey was performed with the MIDI instrument on the VLTI. In total 19 different systems were observed using variable baseline configurations. Combining all the visibilities at a single wavelength at 10.7 μm, we fitted two parametric models to the data: a uniform disk and a ring model mimicking a temperature gradient. We compared our observables of the whole sample, with synthetic data computed from a grid of radiative transfer models of passively irradiated disks in hydrostatic equilibrium. These models are computed with a Monte Carlo code that has been widely applied to describe the structure of protoplanetary disks around young stellar objects (YSO). Results: The spatially resolved observations show that the majority of our targets cluster closely together in the distance-independent size-colour diagram, and have extremely compact N-band emission regions. The typical uniform disk diameter of the N-band emission region is 40 mas, which corresponds to a typical brightness temperature of 400-600 K. The resolved objects display very similar characteristics in the interferometric observables and in the spectral energy distributions. Therefore, the physical properties of the disks around our targets must be similar. Our results are discussed in the light of recently published sample studies of YSOs to compare quantitatively the secondary discs around post-AGB stars to the ones around YSOs. Conclusions: Our high-angular-resolution survey further confirms the disk nature of the circumstellar structures present around wide post-AGB binaries. The grid of protoplanetary disk models covers very well the observed objects. Much like for young stars, the spatially resolved N-band emission region is determined by the hot inner rim of the disk. Continued comparisons between post-AGB and protoplanetary disks will help to understand grain growth and disk evolution processes, and to constrain planet formation theories. These second-generation disks are an important missing ingredient in binary evolution theory of intermediate-mass stars.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberA41
Pages (from-to)1-29
Number of pages29
JournalAstronomy and Astrophysics
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • stars: AGB and post-AGB
  • binaries: spectroscopic
  • techniques: high angular resolution
  • techniques: interferometric
  • circumstellar matter


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