Preplanetary nebulae and planetary nebulae are evolved, mass-losing stellar objects that show a wide variety of morphologies. Many of these nebulae consist of outer structures that are nearly spherical (spiral/shell/arc/halo) and inner structures that are highly asymmetric (bipolar/multipolar) 1,2. The coexistence of such geometrically distinct structures is enigmatic because it hints at the simultaneous presence of both wide and close binary interactions, a phenomenon that has been attributed to stellar binary systems with eccentric orbits 3. Here, we report high-resolution molecular line observations of the circumstellar spiral-shell pattern of AFGL 3068, an asymptotic giant branch star transitioning to the preplanetary nebula phase. The observations clearly reveal that the dynamics of the mass loss is influenced by the presence of an eccentric-orbit binary. This quintessential object opens a window on the nature of deeply embedded binary stars through the circumstellar spiral-shell patterns that reside at distances of several thousand au from the stars.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Astronomy and Astrophysics