Physics of Planetary Nebulae

Low- and intermediate-mass ( M < 8 solar masses, M) stars constitute the majority of the stars in the Universe. Many of these stars end their lives with a phase of strong mass loss and experience thermal pulses on the Asymptotic Giant Branch (AGB), being one of the main contributors to the interstellar medium enrichment. We investigate the transition phase between the last thermal pulses on the AGB and the formation of Planetary Nebulae (PNe). In particular, we focus on the C and O isotopic 12C/13C, 17O/16O, and 18O/16O ratios to pose observational constraints on the current AGB nucleosynthesis theoretical models as well as to study their relation with the presence of Li and neutron-rich elements in AGB stars. During these thermal pulses, the AGB can lose up to 10-4 M per year and forms complex organic molecules; we aim to investigate whether these molecules are fullerenes. We also study the hydrodynamic processes that give rise to different morphologies and also the complex structure detected in the molecular hydrogen in PNe. Finally, we study PNs in the Magellanic Clouds with the aim of deriving an [OIII] luminosity function that could be used as a standard candle for deriving extragalactic distances