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Keywords:

  • masers;
  • stars: formation;
  • ISM: individual objects: Cepheus A;
  • ISM: jets and outflows

ABSTRACT

We present five epochs of VLBI water maser observations around the massive protostar Cepheus A HW2 with 0.4 mas (0.3 au) resolution. The main goal of these observations was to follow the evolution of the remarkable water maser linear/arcuate structures found in earlier VLBI observations. Comparing the data of our new epochs of observation with those observed 5 yr before, we find that at ‘large’ scales of >rsim1 arcsec (700 au) the main regions of maser emission persist, implying that both the surrounding medium and the exciting sources of the masers have been relatively stable during that time-span. However, at smaller scales of ≲0.1 arcsec (70 au) we see large changes in the maser structures, particularly in the expanding arcuate structures R4 and R5. R4 traces a nearly elliptical patchy ring of ∼70 mas size (50 au) with expanding motions of ∼5 mas yr−1 (15 km s−1), consistent with previous results of Gallimore and collaborators. This structure is probably driven by the wind of a still unidentified YSO located at the centre of the ring (∼0.18 arcsec south of HW2). On the other hand, the R5 expanding bubble structure (driven by the wind of a previously identified YSO located ∼0.6 arcsec south of HW2) is currently dissipating in the circumstellar medium and losing its previous degree of symmetry, indicating a very short lived event. In addition, our results reveal, at scales of ∼1 arcsec (700 au), the simultaneous presence of a relatively slow (∼10–70 km s−1) wide-angle outflow (opening angle of ∼102°), traced by the masers, and the fast (∼500 km s−1) highly collimated radio jet associated with HW2 (opening angle of ∼18°), previously observed with the VLA. This simultaneous presence of a wide-angle outflow and a highly collimated jet associated with a massive protostar is similar to what is found in some low-mass YSOs. There are indications that the primary wind(s) from HW2 could be rotating. The implications of these results in the study of the formation of high-mass stars are discussed.