December 2014 • 2014ApJ...796..116N
Abstract • We present Spitzer/InfraRed Spectrograph (IRS) low-resolution observations of 11 compact circumstellar bubbles from the MIPSGAL 24 μm Galactic plane survey. We find that this set of MIPSGAL bubbles (MBs) is divided into two categories and that this distinction correlates with the morphologies of the MBs in the mid-infrared (IR). The four MBs with central sources in the mid-IR exhibit dust-rich, low-excitation spectra, and their 24 μm emission is accounted for by the dust continuum. The seven MBs without central sources in the mid-IR have spectra dominated by high-excitation gas lines (e.g., [O IV] 26.0 μm, [Ne V] 14.3 and 24.3 μm, and [Ne III] 15.5 μm), and the [O IV] line accounts for 50% to almost 100% of the 24 μm emission in five of them. In the dust-poor MBs, the [Ne V] and [Ne III] line ratios correspond to high-excitation conditions. Based on comparisons with published IRS spectra, we suggest that the dust-poor MBs are highly excited planetary nebulae (PNs) with peculiar white dwarfs (e.g., Wolf-Rayet [WR] and novae) at their centers. The central stars of the four dust-rich MBs are all massive star candidates. Dust temperatures range from 40 to 100 K in the outer shells. We constrain the extinction along the lines of sight from the IRS spectra. We then derive distance, dust masses, and dust production rate estimates for these objects. These estimates are all consistent with the nature of the central stars. We summarize the identifications of MBs made to date and discuss the correlation between their mid-IR morphologies and natures. Candidate Be/B[e]/luminous blue variable and WR stars are mainly "rings" with mid-IR central sources, whereas PNs are mostly "disks" without mid-IR central sources. Therefore we expect that most of the 300 remaining unidentified MBs will be classified as PNs.