EDP Sciences
Free access
Volume 483, Number 3, June I 2008
Page(s) 801 - 813
Section Galactic structure, stellar clusters, and populations
DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.1051/0004-6361:200809383
Published online 01 April 2008

A&A 483, 801-813 (2008)
DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361:200809383

The stellar population of the Rosat North Ecliptic Pole survey

II. Spectral analysis
L. Affer1, 2, G. Micela1, and T. Morel3

1  Istituto Nazionale di Astrofisica, Osservatorio Astronomico di Palermo G. S. Vaiana, Piazza del Parlamento 1, 90134 Palermo, Italy
    e-mail: affer@astropa.inaf.it
2  Dipartimento di Scienze Fisiche ed Astronomiche - Università di Palermo, Piazza del Parlamento 1, 90134 Palermo, Italy
3  Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Departement Natuurkunde en Sterrenkunde, Instituut voor Sterrenkunde, Celestijnenlaan 200D, 3001 Leuven, Belgium

(Received 10 January 2008 / Accepted 16 February 2008)

Context. X-ray surveys allow to identify young, main-sequence stars in the solar neighborhood. Young, stellar samples, selected according to their activity, can be used to determine the stellar birthrate in the last billion years. The ROSAT North Ecliptic Pole survey (NEP), with its moderately deep sensitivity (fluxes $\approx$10-14 erg cm-2 s-1), is the best survey, to date, able to sample the intermediate-age (108-109 years) nearby population. The identification process of NEP X-ray sources resulted in 144 X-ray sources having a normal stellar counterpart, with an excess of yellow stars with respect to model predictions.
Aims. We want to determine if these X-ray active stars are young or intermediate-age  stars, or active binaries.
Methods. We acquired high-resolution, high signal-to-noise ratio optical spectra, to determine the age and physical properties of the NEP X-ray-detected stellar sources. We measure the (i) lithium abundance using the $\ion{Li}{i}$ 6707.8 Å line, which is an excellent, youth indicator for our age range of interest; (ii) rotational and radial velocities (through cross-correlation methods); and (iii) chromospheric emission (from H$\alpha$ and $\ion{Na}{i}$ D1 and D2 lines).
Results. The radial velocities distribution is consistent with that of a young field star population of age $4\times 10{^9}$ yrs, or younger. Rotational velocity measurements imply that our sample is dominated by relatively young or intermediate-age stars, as confirmed by our lithium measurements.
Conclusions. Most of the detected stars probably belong to a young or intermediate-age population. Our measurements suggest that a burst in the stellar birthrate of a factor of four occurred in the last 108 years. We cannot, however, exclude the possibility that a small fraction of sources, amongst the fastest of the K-rotators, are old binary systems with tidally-locked rotation.

Key words: stars: rotation --  stars: abundances -- techniques: spectroscopic -- techniques: radial velocities -- Galaxy: solar neighbourhood

© ESO 2008