Astronomy and Astrophysics, volume 502, 155-173 (2009/7-4)
The diversity of methanol maser morphologies from VLBI observations.
BARTKIEWICZ A., SZYMCZAK M., VAN LANGEVELDE H.J., RICHARDS A.M.S. and PIHLSTROEM Y.M.
Abstract (from CDS):
The 6.7GHz methanol maser marks an early stage of high-mass star formation, but the origin of this maser is currently a matter of debate. In particular it is unclear whether the maser emission arises in discs, outflows or behind shocks running into rotating molecular clouds. We investigated which structures the methanol masers trace in the environment of high-mass protostar candidates by observing a homogenous sample of methanol masers selected from Torun surveys. We also probed their origins by looking for associated HII regions and IR emission. We selected 30 methanol sources with improved position accuracies achieved using MERLIN and another 3 from the literature. We imaged 31 of these using the European VLBI Network's expanded array of telescopes with 5-cm (6-GHz) receivers. We used the VLA to search for 8.4GHz radio continuum counterparts and inspected Spitzer GLIMPSE data at 3.6-8µm from the archive. High angular resolution images allowed us to analyze the morphology and kinematics of the methanol masers in great detail and verify their association with radio continuum and mid-infrared emission. A new class of ``ring-like'' methanol masers in star-forming regions appeared to be suprisingly common, 29% of the sample. The new morphology strongly suggests that methanol masers originate in the disc or torus around a proto- or a young massive star. However, the maser kinematics indicate the strong influence of outflow or infall. This suggests that they form at the interface between the disc/torus and a flow. This is also strongly supported by Spitzer results because the majority of the masers coincide with 4.5µm emission to within less than 1". Only four masers are associated with the central parts of UC HII regions. This implies that 6.7GHz methanol maser emission occurs before HII region observable at cm wavelengths is formed.