Journal Article

<i>Spitzer</i> spectra of evolved stars in ω Centauri and their low-metallicity dust production

I. McDonald, J. Th. van Loon, G. C. Sloan, A. K. Dupree, A. A. Zijlstra, M. L. Boyer, R. D. Gehrz, A. Evans, C. E. Woodward and C. I. Johnson

in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

Published on behalf of The Royal Astronomical Society

Volume 417, issue 1, pages 20-31
Published in print October 2011 | ISSN: 0035-8711
Published online October 2011 | e-ISSN: 1365-2966 | DOI:
Spitzer spectra of evolved stars in ω Centauri and their low-metallicity dust production

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Dust production is explored around 14 metal-poor ([Fe/H]=−1.91 to −0.98) giant stars in the Galactic globular cluster ω Centauri using new Spitzer Infrared Spectrograph spectra. This sample includes the cluster’s post-asymptotic giant branch (AGB) and carbon stars and is thus the first representative spectral study of dust production in a metal-poor ([Fe/H] < −1) population. Only the more metal-rich stars V6 and V17 ([Fe/H]=−1.08, −1.06) exhibit silicate emission, while the five other stars with mid-infrared excess show only a featureless continuum which we argue is caused by metallic iron dust grains. We examine the metallicity of V42, and find it is likely part of the metal-rich population ([Fe/H]∼−0.8). Aside from the post-AGB star V1, we find no star from the cluster’s bulk, metal-poor ([Fe/H] < −1.5) population – including the carbon stars – to be producing detectable amounts of dust. We compare the dust production to the stars’ Hα line profiles obtained at the Magellan/Clay telescope at Las Campanas Observatory, finding pulsation shocking in the strongest pulsators (V6, V17 and V42), but evidence of outflow in all other stars. We conclude that the onset of dust production does not signify a fundamental change in the material leaving the star. Our data add to a growing body of evidence that metallic iron dominates dust production in metal-poor, oxygen-rich stars, but that dust is probably not the primary accelerant of winds in this mass–metallicity regime.

Keywords: stars: AGB and post-AGB; circumstellar matter; stars: mass-loss; stars: winds, outflows; globular clusters: general; infrared: stars

Journal Article.  7055 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Astronomy and Astrophysics

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