Observations of the symbiotic binary R Aquarii environment were obtained with the Very Large Array (VLA) at 2, 6, and 20 em at the same epoch. The observed spectral index and strong linear polarization reveal that emission from the compact double radio source discovered in previous observations is nonthermal; thus, this source is not associated with R Aquarii but is an extragalactic background object. The spectral index of the compact nebula surrounding R Aquarii indicates that the emission is thermal and the nebula is ionized by an unseen, hot companion to the Mira-like variable R Aquarii. As expected, this region shows no indication of linear polarization, and we have determined a steady state mass loss of ~ 2. 7 x 10- 7 M 0 yr- 1 from the system. However, the spectral index and polarization observations of the extended jet ~6" away from R Aquarii indicate that this amorphous source is definitely thermal and optically thin in nature. These new observations place severe constraints on possible models which have been proposed from previous investigations. We suggest that our new observations of the jet can be best explained by enhanced mass exchange occurring periodically in the symbiotic system. Comparison of 6 em data taken with the same VLA configuration but separated by 495 days does not indicate any appreciable morphological change or statistically significant integrated flux difference and thus suggests that on these time scales the jet is now quite stable. High-resolution white light images of R Aquarii and environs obtained with the 4 m telescope at Kitt Peak just prior to the VLA observations show a high degree of correlation with the 6 em radio data and place a limit on the apparent visual magnitude of the compact double radio source; optical speckle interferometry failed to resolve any components in the R Aquarii system.
Hollis, J.M., Kafatos, M., Michalitsianos, A.G., McAlister, H.A. (1985) The R Aquarii System at Optical and Radio Wavelengths, The Astrophysical Journal, 289: 765-773. doi: 10.1086/162940