EDP Sciences
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Volume 455, Number 3, September I 2006
Page(s) 943 - 952
Section Galactic structure, stellar clusters, and populations
DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.1051/0004-6361:20065427

A&A 455, 943-952 (2006)
DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361:20065427

Observations of the hot horizontal-branch stars in the metal-rich bulge globular cluster NGC 6388

Indications of helium enrichment and a lesson in crowded field spectroscopy
S. Moehler1 and A. V. Sweigart2

1  Institut für Theoretische Physik und Astrophysik, Olshausenstraße 40, 24118 Kiel, Germany
    e-mail: smoehler@eso.org
2  NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Code 667, Greenbelt, MD 20771, USA

(Received 13 April 2006/ Accepted 19 May 2006 )

Context.The metal-rich bulge globular cluster NGC 6388 shows a distinct blue horizontal-branch tail in its colour-magnitude diagram (Rich et al. 1997) and is thus a strong case of the well-known 2nd Parameter Problem. In addition, its horizontal branch (HB) shows an upward tilt toward bluer colours, which cannot be explained by canonical evolutionary models.
Aims.Several noncanonical scenarios have been proposed to explain these puzzling observations. In order to test the predictions of these scenarios, we have obtained medium resolution spectra to determine the atmospheric parameters of a sample of the blue HB stars in NGC 6388.
Methods.Using the medium resolution spectra, we determine effective temperatures, surface gravities and helium abundances by fitting the observed Balmer and helium lines with appropriate theoretical stellar spectra. As we know the distance to the cluster, we can verify our results by determining masses for the stars. During the data reduction we took special care in subtracting the background, which is dominated by the overlapping spectra of cool stars.
Results.The cool blue tail stars in our sample with effective temperatures $ T_{{\rm eff}}$ $\approx$ 10 000 K have lower than canonical surface gravities, suggesting that these stars are, on average, $\approx$0$\fm$4 brighter than canonical HB stars in agreement with the observed upward slope of the HB in NGC 6388. Moreover, the mean mass of these stars agrees well with theoretical predictions. In contrast, the hot blue tail stars in our sample with $ T_{{\rm eff}}$ $\ge$ 12 000 K show significantly lower surface gravities than predicted by any scenario, which can reproduce the photometric observations. Their masses are also too low by about a factor of 2 compared to theoretical predictions.
Conclusions.The physical parameters of the blue HB stars near 10 000 K support the helium pollution scenario. The low gravities and masses of the hot blue tail stars, however, are probably caused by problems with the data reduction, most likely due to remaining background light in the spectra, which would affect the fainter hot blue tail stars much more strongly than the brighter cool blue tail stars. Our study of the hot blue tail stars in NGC 6388 illustrates the obstacles which are encountered when attempting to determine the atmospheric parameters of hot HB stars in very crowded fields using ground-based observations. We discuss these obstacles and offer possible solutions for future projects.

Key words: stars: horizontal-branch -- stars: evolution -- techniques: spectroscopic -- Galaxy: bulge -- globular clusters: individual: NGC 6388

© ESO 2006