The red tail of carbon stars in the LMC: Models meet 2MASS and DENIS observations
Dipartimento di Astronomia, Università di Padova, Vicolo dell'Osservatorio 2, 35122 Padova, Italy
2 Osservatorio Astronomico di Trieste, Via Tiepolo 11, 34131 Trieste, Italy
Corresponding author: P. Marigo, firstname.lastname@example.org
Accepted: 4 February 2003
Carbon stars are known to exhibit systematically redder near-infrared colours with respect to M-type stars. In the near-infrared colour–magnitude diagrams provided by the 2MASS and DENIS surveys, the LMC C-type stars draw a striking “red tail”, well separated from the sequences of O-rich giants. So far, this conspicuous feature has been absent from any set of available isochrones, even the few existing ones that include the TP-AGB evolution of low- and intermediate-mass stars. To investigate such issue we simulate the complete 2MASS Ks vs. data towards the LMC by means of a population synthesis approach, that relies on extended libraries of published stellar evolutionary tracks, including the TP-AGB phase. The simulations provide quite a detailed description of the several vertical “fingers” and inclined sequences seen in 2MASS data, due to both galactic foreground and LMC O-rich stars. Instead, as mentioned, the red tail of C-stars sets a major difficulty: we find that TP-AGB models with solar-scaled molecular opacities, the usual assumption of existing AGB calculations, do not succeed in reproducing this feature. Our tests indicate that the main reason for this failure should not be ascribed to empirical Teff– transformations for C-type stars. Instead, the discrepancy is simply removed by adopting new evolutionary models that account for the changes in molecular opacities as AGB stars get enriched in carbon via the third dredge-up (Marigo [CITE]). In fact, simulations that adopt these models are able to reproduce, for the first time, the red tail of C-stars in near-infrared CMDs. Finally, we point out that these simulations also provide useful indications about the efficiency of the third dredge-up process, and the pulsation modes of long-period variables.
Key words: stars: AGB and post-AGB / stars: evolution / stars: carbon / stars: fundamental parameters / stars: mass loss
© ESO, 2003