First VLTI infrared spectro-interferometry on GCIRS 7 - Characterizing the prime reference source for Galactic center observations at highest angular resolution

Pott, J. -U.
Eckart, A.
Glindemann, A.
Kraus, S.
Schodel, R.
Ghez, A. M.
Woillez, J.
Weigelt, G.
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Investigating the environment of the massive black hole SgrA* at the center of the Galaxy requires the highest angular resolution available to avoid source confusion and to study the physical properties of the individual objects. GCIRS7 has been used as wavefront and astrometric reference. Our studies investigate, for the first time, its properties at 2&10um using VLTI/AMBER and MIDI. We aim at analyzing the suitability of IRS7 as an IF-phase-reference for the upcoming generation of dual-field facilities at optical interferometers. We observed with (R~30) and 50m (proj.) baseline, resulting in 9 and 45mas resolution for NIR and MIR, resp. The first K-band fringe detection of a GC star suggests that IRS7 could be marginally resolved at 2um, which would imply that the photosphere of the supergiant is enshrouded by a molecular and dusty envelope. At 10um, IRS7 is strongly resolved with a visibility of approximately 0.2. The MIR is dominated by moderately warm (200 K), extended dust, mostly distributed outside of a radius of about 120 AU (15 mas) around the star. A deep 9.8-silicate absorption in excess of the usual extinction law with respect to the NIR extinction has been found. This confirms recent findings of a relatively enhanced, interstellar 9.8-silicate absorption with respect to the NIR extinction towards another star in the central arcsec, suggesting an unusual dust composition in that region. Our VLTI observations show that interferometric NIR phase-referencing experiments with mas resolution using IRS7 as phase-reference appear to be feasible, but more such studies are required to definitely characterize the close environment around this star. We demonstrate that interferometry is required to resolve the innermost environment of stars at the Galactic center.
Comment: 6 pages, 2 figures, accepted for publication in A&A