Even though low mass stars (< 8 solar masses) vastly outnumber high mass stars (< 8 solar masses), the more massive stars drive the chemical evolution of galaxies from which the next generation of stars and planets can form. Understanding mass loss of asymptotic giant branch stars contributes to our understanding of the chemical evolution of the galaxy, stellar populations, and star formation history. Stars with mass < 8 solar masses form planetary nebulae, while those with mass < 8 solar masses go supernova. In both cases, these stars enrich their environments with elements heavier than simple hydrogen and helium molecules. While some general info about how stars die and form planetary nebulae are known, specific details are missing due to a lack of high-resolution observations and analysis of the intermediate stages. For example, we know that mass loss in stars creates morphologically diverse planetary nebulae, but we do not know the uniformity of these processes, and therefore lack detailed models to better predict how spherically symmetric stars form asymmetric nebulae. We have selected a specific group of late-stage stars and observed them at different scales to reveal the uniformity of mass loss through different layers close to the star. This includes observing nearby masers that trace the molecular shell structure around these stars. This study revealed detailed structure that was analyzed for uniformity to place constraints on how the mass loss processes behave in models. These results will feed into our ability to create more detailed models to better predict the chemical evolution of the next generation of stars and planets.



College and Department

Physical and Mathematical Sciences; Physics and Astronomy



Date Submitted


Document Type





radio, OH/IR, astronomy, maser, star, planetary nebulae, mass loss