Journal Article

A near-infrared study of AGB and red giant stars in the Leo I dSph galaxy

E. V. Held, M. Gullieuszik, L. Rizzi, L. Girardi, P. Marigo and I. Saviane

in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

Published on behalf of The Royal Astronomical Society

Volume 404, issue 3, pages 1475-1489
Published in print May 2010 | ISSN: 0035-8711
Published online May 2010 | e-ISSN: 1365-2966 | DOI:
A near-infrared study of AGB and red giant stars in the Leo I dSph galaxy

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A near-infrared imaging study of the evolved stellar populations in the dwarf spheroidal galaxy Leo I is presented. Based on JHK observations obtained with the WFCAM wide-field array at the United Kingdom Infrared Telescope, we build a near-infrared photometric catalogue of red giant branch (RGB) and asymptotic giant branch (AGB) stars in Leo I over a 13.5 arcmin2 area. The VK colours of RGB stars, obtained by combining the new data with existing optical observations, allow us to derive a distribution of global metallicity [M/H] with average [M/H]=−1.51 (uncorrected) or [M/H]=−1.24 ± 0.05(int) ± 0.15(syst) after correction for the mean age of Leo I stars. This is consistent with the results from spectroscopy once stellar ages are taken into account. Using a near-infrared two-colour diagram, we discriminate between carbon- and oxygen-rich AGB stars and obtain a clean separation from Milky Way foreground stars. We reveal a concentration of C-type AGB stars relative to the red giant stars in the inner region of the galaxy, which implies a radial gradient in the intermediate-age (1–3 Gyr) stellar populations. The numbers and luminosities of the observed carbon- and oxygen-rich AGB stars are compared with those predicted by evolutionary models including the thermally pulsing AGB phase, to provide new constraints to the models for low-metallicity stars. We find an excess in the predicted number of C stars fainter than the RGB tip, associated to a paucity of brighter ones. The number of O-rich AGB stars is roughly consistent with the models, yet their predicted luminosity function is extended to brighter luminosity. Although these discrepancies can be partly ascribed to significant uncertainties in the Leo I star formation history and incompleteness of the spectroscopic samples of C stars fainter than the RGB tip, it appears more likely that the adopted evolutionary models overestimate the C-star lifetime and underestimate their K-band luminosity.

Keywords: stars: AGB and post-AGB; stars: carbon; galaxies: individual: Leo I; Local Group; galaxies: stellar content

Journal Article.  10456 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Astronomy and Astrophysics

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