EDP Sciences
Free Access
Volume 469, Number 2, July II 2007
Page(s) 687 - 706
Section Stellar atmospheres
DOI https://doi.org/10.1051/0004-6361:20066321
Published online 03 April 2007

A&A 469, 687-706 (2007)
DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361:20066321

Three-dimensional hydrodynamical simulations of surface convection in red giant stars

Impact on spectral line formation and abundance analysis
R. Collet1, 2, M. Asplund3, and R. Trampedach3

1  Max-Planck-Institut für Astrophysik, Karl-Schwarzschild-Str. 1, Postfach 1317, 85741 Garching b. München, Germany
    e-mail: remo@mpa-garching.mpg.de
2  Department of Astronomy and Space Physics, Uppsala University, BOX 515, 751 20 Uppsala, Sweden
3  Research School of Astronomy & Astrophysics, Mount Stromlo Observatory, Cotter Road, Weston ACT 2611, Australia
    e-mail: [martin;art]@mso.anu.edu.au

(Received 30 August 2006 / Accepted 26 March 2007 )

Aims.We investigate the impact of realistic three-dimensional (3D) hydrodynamical model atmospheres of red giant stars at different metallicities on the formation of spectral lines of a number of ions and molecules.
Methods.We carry out realistic, ab initio, 3D, hydrodynamical simulations of surface convection at the surface of red giant stars with varying effective temperatures and metallicities. We use the convection simulations as time-dependent hydrodynamical model stellar atmospheres to calculate spectral lines of a number of ions ( $\ion{Li}{i}$, $\ion{O}{i}$, $\ion{Na}{i}$, $\ion{Mg}{i}$, $\ion{Ca}{i}$, $\ion{Fe}{i}$, and $\ion{Fe}{ii}$) and molecules (CH, NH, and OH) under the assumption of local thermodynamic equilibrium (LTE). We carry out a differential comparison of the line strengths computed in 3D with the results of analogous line formation calculations for classical, 1D, hydrostatic, plane-parallel MARCS model atmospheres in order to estimate the impact of 3D models on the derivation of elemental abundances.
Results.The temperature and density inhomogeneities and correlated velocity fields in 3D models, as well as the differences between the mean 3D stratifications and corresponding 1D model atmospheres significantly affect the predicted strengths of spectral lines. Under the assumption of LTE, the low atmospheric temperatures encountered in 3D model atmospheres of very metal-poor giant stars cause spectral lines from neutral species and molecules to appear stronger than within the framework of 1D models. As a consequence, elemental abundances derived from these lines using 3D models are significantly lower than according to 1D analyses. In particular, the differences between 3D and 1D abundances of C, N, and O derived from CH, NH, and OH weak low-excitation lines are found to be in the range -0.5 dex to -1.0 dex for the the red giant stars at [Fe/H]=-3 considered here. At this metallicity, large negative corrections (about -0.8 dex) are also found, in LTE, for weak low-excitation $\ion{Fe}{i}$ lines. We caution, however, that the neglected departures from LTE might be significant for these and other elements and comparable to the effects due to stellar granulation.

Key words: convection -- hydrodynamics -- line: formation -- stars: abundances -- stars: late-type -- stars: atmospheres

© ESO 2007

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