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      The dynamical evolution of the dust shell of IRC+10216


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          We present high-resolution J-, H-, and K-band observations of the carbon star IRC+10216. The images were reconstructed from 6 m telescope speckle interferograms using the bispectrum speckle interferometry method. The H and K images consist of several compact components within a 0.2" radius and a fainter asymmetric nebula. The brightest four components are denoted with A to D in the order of decreasing brightness. A comparison of our images gives - almost like a movie of five frames - insight to the dynamical evolution of the inner nebula. For instance, the separation of the two brightest components A and B increased by almost 40% from 191 mas in 1995 to 265 mas in 1998. At the same time, component B is fading and the components C and D become brighter. The X-shaped bipolar structure of the nebula implies an asymmetric mass-loss suggesting that IRC+10216 is very advanced in its AGB evolution, shortly before turning into a protoplanetary nebula. The cometary shape of component A suggests that the core of A is not the central star, but the southern lobe of a bipolar structure. The position of the central star is probably at or near the position of component B.

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          25 February 2000
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          8 pages including 3 PostScript figures; also available from http://www.mpifr-bonn.mpg.de/div/speckle/publications.html; Mem. Soc. Astron. Ital., in press


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