Identifying circumstellar dust around oxygen-rich mira variables with maser emission via continuum elimination
Stars between about 0.8 and 8 times the mass of the Sun will eventually evolve, becoming asymptotic giant branch (AGB) stars, where they pulsate and eject mass from their atmospheres, forming dust shells in the space around them. Evolved low- and intermediate-mass stars with carbon-to-oxygen ratios (C/O) below unity are known as oxygen-rich stars. O-rich stars are surrounded by dust shells containing mineral species dominated by silicate dust grains. In this dissertation, I examine whether dust grains around evolved, oxygen-rich AGB stars have any correlation with maser emission, and to understand the connection, if any, between specific types of maser emission and dust spectral features. I have investigated several methods of continuum elimination using spectroscopy data for the archetypal dusty AGB star, Mira. I have investigated the ~10[mu]m and ~18[mu]m spectral features in the continuum-eliminated spectrum including peak position, barycenter, and full width half maxima (FWHM). The positions and widthved spectral features were compared with those seen in laboratory spectra. I then looked for a correlation between maser emission and dust spectral features in a sample of Mira variables. The types of masers have been identified, and peak positions, barycenter positions, and FWHM have been measured for the sample spectra. The results show that the method of continuum elimination matters for correct identification of dust minerals, while varying the temperature and precise continuum shapes do not have a major effect on the positions of spectral features. Observed astronomical silicate features are complex and indicate the need for different compositions of minerals. Finally, there does not appear to be a correlation between the presence of a maser and dust spectral features based on the information available for analysis.