The interface between the stellar wind and interstellar medium around R Cassiopeiae revealed by far-infrared imaging
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The circumstellar dust shells of intermediate initial-mass (about 1 to 8 solar masses) evolved stars are generated by copious mass loss during the asymptotic giant branch phase. The density structure of their circumstellar shell is the direct evidence of mass loss processes, from which we can investigate the nature of mass loss. We used the AKARI Infrared Astronomy Satellite and the Spitzer Space Telescope to obtain the surface brightness maps of an evolved star R Cas at far-infrared wavelengths, since the temperature of dust decreases as the distance from the star increases and one needs to probe dust at lower temperatures, i.e., at longer wavelengths. The observed shell structure and the star's known proper motion suggest that the structure represents the interface regions between the dusty wind and the interstellar medium. The deconvolved structures are fitted with the analytic bow shock structure to determine the inclination angle of the bow shock cone. Our data show that (1) the bow shock cone of 1 - 5 x 10^-5 solar masses (dust mass) is inclined at 68 degrees with respect to the plane of the sky, and (2) the dust temperature in the bow shock cone is raised to more than 20 K by collisional shock interaction in addition to the ambient interstellar radiation field. By comparison between the apex vector of the bow shock and space motion vector of the star we infer that there is a flow of interstellar medium local to R Cas whose flow velocity is at least 55.6 km/s, consistent with an environment conducive to dust heating by shock interactions.