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Astron. Astrophys. 325, 609-612 (1997)

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Research Note

High-resolution imaging of the bipolar nebula Red Rectangle

Evidence for unstable mass transfer in a close binary system *

R. Osterbart 1, N. Langer 2, 3 and G. Weigelt 1

1 Max-Planck-Institut für Radioastronomie, Auf dem Hügel 69, D-53121 Bonn, Germany (rosterb@specklec.mpifr-bonn.mpg.de, weigelt@mpifr-bonn.mpg.de)
2 Institut fuer Theoretische Physik und Astrophysik, Am Neuen Palais 10, D-14469 Potsdam, Germany (ntl@astro.physik.uni-potsdam.de)
3 Max-Planck-Institut für Astrophysik, Postfach 1523, D-85740 Garching, Germany

Received 18 December 1996 / Accepted 1 April 1997


We present the first diffraction-limited speckle-masking bispectrum observations of the central part of the Red Rectangle at optical wavelengths ([FORMULA]  nm and [FORMULA]  nm). The results confirm infrared observations which show that the object is a bipolar nebula. The dark lane separating the two lobes is probably produced by an obscuring dust disk slightly inclined with respect to the line of sight. The fainter northern lobe appears not to be reddened by the disk. This implies an upper limit of the outer disk radius of about 200 AU. We propose that the observed nebula is the result of recent mass ejection induced by unstable mass transfer from an AGB star to a close companion.

Key words: techniques: image processing – techniques: interferometric: speckle interferometry – planetary nebulae: individual (Red Rectangle) – stars: mass-loss – stars: AGB, post-AGB

* based on observations collected at the European Southern Observatory, La Silla, Chile

Send offprint requests to: R. Osterbart

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© European Southern Observatory (ESO) 1997

Online publication: April 28, 1998