Revealing the sub-AU asymmetries of the inner dust rim in the disk around the Herbig Ae star R CrA

see Kraus et al. 2009, A&A, 508, 787

Unveiling the structure of the disks around intermediate-mass pre-main-sequence stars (Herbig Ae/Be stars) is essential for our understanding of the star and planet formation process. In particular, models predict that in the innermost AU around the star, the dust disk forms a “puffed-up” inner rim, which should result in a strongly asymmetric brightness distribution for disks seen under intermediate inclination.

Our
aim is to constrain the sub-AU geometry of the inner disk around the Herbig Ae star R CrA and search for the predicted asymmetries.

Using
the VLTI/AMBER long-baseline interferometer, we obtained 24 near-infrared (H- and K-band) spectro-interferometric observations on R CrA. Observing with three telescopes in a linear array configuration, each data set samples three equally spaced points in the visibility function, providing direct information about the radial intensity profile. In addition, the observations cover a wide position angle range ( 97°), also probing the position angle dependence of the sourcebrightness distribution.

In the derived visibility function, we detect the signatures of an extended (Gaussian FWHM 25 mas) and a compact component (Gaussian FWHM 5.8 mas), with the compact component contributing about two-thirds of the total flux(both in H- and K-band). The brightness distribution is highly asymmetric, as indicated by the strong closure phases (up to 40°) and the detected position angle dependence of the visibilities and closure phases. To interpret these asymmetries, we employ various geometric as well as physical models, including a binary model, a skewed ring model, and a pued-up inner rim model with a vertical or curved rim shape. For the binary and vertical rim model, no acceptable fits could be obtained. On the other hand, the skewed ring model and the curved puffed-up inner rim model allow us to simultaneously reproduce the measured visibilities and closure phases. From these models we derive the location of the dust sublimation radius ( 0.4 AU), the disk inclination angle ( 35°), and a north-southern disk orientation (PA 180-190°). Our curved puffed-up rim model can reasonably well reproduce the interferometric observables and the SED simultaneously and suggests a luminosity of 29 L_sun and the presence of relatively large ( > 1.2 µm) Silicate dust grains. Our study reveals also significant deviations between the measured interferometric observables and the employed puffed-up inner rim model, providing important constraints for future refinements of these theoretical models. Perpendicular to the disk, two bow shock-like structure appear in the associated reflection nebula NGC 6729, suggesting that the detected sub-AU size disk is the driving engine of a large-scale outflow.

Detecting,
for the first time, strong non-localized asymmetries in the inner regions of a Herbig Ae disk, our study supports the existence of a pued-up inner rim in YSO disks.


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