Speckle masking imaging polarimetry of Carinae: evidence for an equatorial disk

H. Falcke, K. Davidson, K.-H. Hofmann, and G. Weigelt

Astronomy and Astrophysics, v.306, p.L17-L20 (1996)


With our new speckle imaging polarimeter we have obtained the first polarimetric images witharcsecond resolution of the Luminous Blue Variable η Carinae in the Hα line. The polarization patterns at the 3" scale match well earlier conventional imaging photometry and can be interpreted as Mie scattering. In crosscorrelation-centered images we detected in polarized light a bar in the NE part of the equatorial plane of η Carinae. High-resolution 0.11" polarimetric speckle reconstructions reveal a compact structure elongated in the same direction which is consistent, in degree and position angle of the polarisation, with the presence of a circumstellar, equatorial disk. The degree of polarization of the previously discovered speckle objects and the Hα arm is relatively low (~10%) and thus may indicate a position within the equatorial plane. We also discovered a highly polarized (20%-40%) bipolar structure along the major axis of the Homunculus nebula which can be traced down to the sub-arcsecond scale. This is probably the inner part of a bipolar outflow into the Homunculus.

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