Axisymmetry in protoplanetary nebulae - II : A near-infrared imaging polarimetric survey
In an imaging polarimetry survey of candidate post-AGB stars, scattering envelopes are detected around 20 objects. These envelopes represent the final mass-loss phases at the end of the AGB. In all cases, evidence for axisymmetry in the dust density is seen, suggesting that the presence of an axisymmetric outflow may be a ubiquitous phenomenon of the AGB to post-AGB transition. We use the polarized flux images to classify the objects into detached shell, bipolar and unresolved targets. Modelling based on a simple axisymmetric shell geometry supports the contention that post-AGB objects fall into one of two classes that differ in the amount of dust in the circumstellar environment: the detached shells correspond to stars with an optically thin expanding circumstellar envelope (CSE) whereas the bipolar and unresolved targets have optically thick dust structures, probably in the form of discs, which remain bound to the star, rather than partaking in the expansion of the AGB CSE. It is suggested that this bifurcation in morphology is rooted in the presence or absence of a binary companion, which determines whether or not a disc forms. Because the detached shell objects also appear axisymmetric, an additional mechanism for generating the axisymmetry, such as a magnetically shaped outflow, is needed if they do indeed have single star progenitors.