CW Leonis

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CW Leonis
Observation data
Epoch J2000      Equinox J2000
Constellation Leo
Right ascension 09h 47m 57.406s[1]
Declination +13° 16′ 43.56″[1]
Spectral type C
Apparent magnitude (R) 10.96[1]
Apparent magnitude (J) 7.34[1]
Apparent magnitude (H) 4.04[1]
Apparent magnitude (K) 1.19[1]
Distance 390–490[2] ly
(120–150 pc)
Mass 0.8[3] M
Radius 700[3] R
Luminosity 11,300[4] L
Temperature 2,200[3] K
Other designations
CW Leo, Peanut Nebula, IRAS 09452+1330, PK 221+45 1, Zel[disambiguation needed] 0945+135, RAFGL 1381, 2MASS J09475740+1316435, SCM 50.[5]

IRC +10216 or CW Leonis is a well-studied carbon star that is embedded in a thick dust envelope. It was first discovered in 1969 by a group of astronomers led by Eric Becklin, based upon infrared observations made with the 62 inches (1.6 m) Caltech Infrared Telescope at Mount Wilson Observatory. Its energy is emitted mostly at infrared wavelengths. At a wavelength of 5 μm, it was found to have the highest flux of any object outside the Solar System.[6]

CW Leonis is believed to be in a late stage of its life, blowing off its own sooty atmosphere to form a white dwarf in a distant future. Based upon isotope ratios of magnesium, the initial mass of this star has been constrained to lie between 3–5 solar masses. The mass of the star's core, and the final mass of the star once it becomes a white dwarf, is about 0.7–0.9 solar masses.[7] It has a nominal luminosity of 11,300 times the Sun. This varies over the course of a 649-day pulsation cycle, ranging from a minimum of about 6,250 times the Sun's luminosity up to a peak of around 15,800 times.[4]

The carbon-rich gaseous envelope surrounding this star is at least 69,000 years old and the star is losing about (1–4) × 10−5 solar masses per year.[4] The extended envelope contains at least 1.4 solar masses of material.[2] Speckle observations from 1999 show a complex structure to this dust envelope, including partial arcs and unfinished shells. This clumpiness may be caused by a magnetic cycle in the star that is comparable to the solar cycle in the Sun and results in periodic increases in mass loss.[8] Various chemical elements and about 50 molecules have been detected in the outflows from CW Leonis, among others nitrogen, oxygen and water, silicon and iron.

If the distance to this star is assumed to be at the lower end of the estimate range, 120 pc, then the astrosphere surrounding the star spans a radius of about 84,000 AU. The star and its surrounding envelope are advancing at a velocity of more than 91 km/s through the surrounding interstellar medium.[2] It is moving with a space velocity of [U, V, W] = [21.6 ± 3.9, 12.6 ± 3.5, 1.8 ± 3.3] km s−1.[7]

In popular culture[edit]

IRC +10216 has been one of the mistaken identities as the claimed planet "Nibiru", due to its brightness as it approaches 1st magnitude.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Cutri, R. M.; et al. "2MASS All-Sky Catalog of Point Sources". VizieR On-line Data Catalog: II/246. Bibcode:2003yCat.2246....0C. 
  2. ^ a b c Sahai, Raghvendra; Chronopoulos, Christopher K. (March 2010). "The Astrosphere of the Asymptotic Giant Branch Star IRC+10216". The Astrophysical Journal Letters. 711 (2): L53–L56. arXiv:1001.4997Freely accessible. Bibcode:2010ApJ...711L..53S. doi:10.1088/2041-8205/711/2/L53. 
  3. ^ a b c Weigelt, G.; et al. (May 1998), "76mas speckle-masking interferometry of IRC+10216 with the SAO 6m telescope: Evidence for a clumpy shell structure", Astronomy and Astrophysics, 333: L51–L54, arXiv:astro-ph/9805022Freely accessible, Bibcode:1998A&A...333L..51W 
  4. ^ a b c De Beck, E.; et al. (January 10, 2012), "On the physical structure of IRC+10216", Astronomy & Astrophysics, arXiv:1201.1850Freely accessible, doi:10.1051/00046361/201117635 
  5. ^ "V* CW Leo -- Variable Star of Mira Cet type". SIMBAD. Centre de Données astronomiques de Strasbourg. Retrieved 2011-05-09. 
  6. ^ Becklin, E. E.; et al. (December 1969). "The Unusual Infrared Object IRC+10216". Astrophysical Journal. 158: L133. Bibcode:1969ApJ...158L.133B. doi:10.1086/180450. 
  7. ^ a b Ladjal, D.; et al. (July 2010). "Herschel PACS and SPIRE imaging of CW Leonis". Astronomy and Astrophysics. 518. arXiv:1005.1433Freely accessible. Bibcode:2010A&A...518L.141L. doi:10.1051/0004-6361/201014658. 
  8. ^ Dinh-V-Trung, Jeremy; Lim (May 2008), "Molecular Shells in IRC+10216: Evidence for Nonisotropic and Episodic Mass-Loss Enhancement", The Astrophysical Journal, 678 (1): 303–308, arXiv:0712.1714Freely accessible, Bibcode:2008ApJ...678..303D, doi:10.1086/527669 

External links[edit]