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  1. ABSTRACT The detection of the 11.3$\, {\rm \mu m}$ emission feature characteristic of the Si–C stretch in carbon-rich evolved stars reveals that silicon carbide (SiC) dust grains are condensed in the outflows of carbon stars. SiC dust could be a significant constituent of interstellar dust since it is generally believed that carbon stars inject a considerable amount of dust into the interstellar medium (ISM). The presence of SiC dust in the ISM is also supported by the identification of pre-solar SiC grains of stellar origin in primitive meteorites. However, the 11.3$\,\mu {\rm m}$ absorption feature of SiC has never been seen in the ISM, and oxidative destruction of SiC is often invoked. In this work, we quantitatively explore the destruction of interstellar SiC dust through oxidation based on molecular dynamics simulations and density functional theory calculations. We find that the reaction of an oxygen atom with SiC molecules and clusters is exothermic and could cause CO-loss. Nevertheless, even if this is extrapolable to bulk SiC dust, the destruction rate of SiC dust through oxidation could still be considerably smaller than the (currently believed) injection rate from carbon stars. Therefore, the lack of the 11.3$\,\mu{\rm m}$ absorption feature of SiC dustmore »in the ISM remains a mystery. A possible solution may lie in the currently believed stellar injection rate of SiC (which may have been overestimated) and/or the size of SiC dust (which may actually be considerably smaller than submicron in size).« less
  2. Abstract During October 2019 and March 2020, the luminous red supergiant Betelgeuse demonstrated an unusually deep minimum of its brightness. It became fainter by more than one magnitude and this is the most significant dimming observed in the recent decades. While the reason for the dimming is debated, pre-phase of supernova explosion, obscuring dust, or changes in the photosphere of the star were suggested scenarios. Here, we present spectroscopic studies of Betelgeuse using high-resolution and high signal-to-noise ratio near-infrared spectra obtained at Weihai Observatory on four epochs in 2020 covering the phases of during and after dimming. We show that the dimming episode is caused by the dropping of its effective temperature by at least 170 K on 2020 January 31, that can be attributed to the emergence of a large dark spot on the surface of the star.
  3. Abstract While it is well recognized that both the Galactic interstellar extinction curves and the gas-phase abundances of dust-forming elements exhibit considerable variations from one sight line to another, as yet most of the dust extinction modeling efforts have been directed to the Galactic average extinction curve, which is obtained by averaging over many clouds of different gas and dust properties. Therefore, any details concerning the relationship between the dust properties and the interstellar environments are lost. Here we utilize the wealth of extinction and elemental abundance data obtained by space telescopes and explore the dust properties of a large number of individual sight lines. We model the observed extinction curve of each sight line and derive the abundances of the major dust-forming elements (i.e., C, O, Si, Mg, and Fe) required to be tied up in dust (i.e., dust depletion). We then confront the derived dust depletions with the observed gas-phase abundances of these elements and investigate the environmental effects on the dust properties and elemental depletions. It is found that for the majority of the sight lines the interstellar oxygen atoms are fully accommodated by gas and dust and therefore there does not appear to be a “missingmore »oxygen” problem. For those sight lines with an extinction-to-hydrogen column density A V / N H ≳ 4.8 × 10 −22 mag cm 2 H −1 there are shortages of C, Si, Mg, and Fe elements for making dust to account for the observed extinction, even if the interstellar C/H, Si/H, Mg/H, and Fe/H abundances are assumed to be protosolar abundances augmented by Galactic chemical evolution.« less
  4. ABSTRACT Extremely elongated, conducting dust particles (also known as metallic ‘needles’ or ‘whiskers’) are seen in carbonaceous chondrites and in samples brought back from the Itokawa asteroid. Their formation in protostellar nebulae and subsequent injection into the interstellar medium have been demonstrated, both experimentally and theoretically. Metallic needles have been suggested to explain a wide variety of astrophysical phenomena, ranging from the mid-infrared interstellar extinction at $\sim \,$3–8$\, {\rm \mu m}$ to the thermalization of starlight to generate the cosmic microwave background. To validate (or invalidate) these suggestions, an accurate knowledge of the optics (e.g. the amplitude and the wavelength dependence of the absorption cross sections) of metallic needles is crucial. Here we calculate the absorption cross sections of iron needles of various aspect ratios over a wide wavelength range, by exploiting the discrete dipole approximation, the most powerful technique for rigorously calculating the optics of irregular or nonspherical grains. Our calculations support the earlier findings that the antenna theory and the Rayleigh approximation, which are often taken to approximate the optical properties of metallic needles, are indeed inapplicable.
  5. Context. As the fourth most abundant element in the universe, carbon (C) is widespread in the interstellar medium (ISM) in various allotropic forms (e.g. fullerenes have been identified unambiguously in many astronomical environments, the presence of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon molecules in space has been commonly acknowledged, and presolar graphite, as well as nanodiamonds, have been identified in meteorites). As stable allotropes of these species, whether carbon nanotubes (CNTs) and their hydrogenated counterparts are also present in the ISM or not is unknown. Aims. The aim of the present works is to explore the possible routes for the formation of CNTs in the ISM and calculate their fingerprint vibrational spectral features in the infrared (IR). Methods. We studied the hydrogen-abstraction and acetylene-addition (HACA) mechanism and investigated the synthesis of nanotubes using density functional theory (DFT). The IR vibrational spectra of CNTs and hydrogenated nanotubes (HNTs), as well as their cations, were obtained with DFT. Results. We find that CNTs could be synthesized in space through a feasible formation pathway. CNTs and cationic CNTs, as well as their hydrogenated counterparts, exhibit intense vibrational transitions in the IR. Their possible presence in the ISM could be investigated by comparing the calculated vibrational spectramore »with astronomical observations made by the Infrared Space Observatory, Spitzer Space Telescope, and particularly the upcoming James Webb Space Telescope.« less