Groupe d'Astrophysique, UMR 5024 CNRS, Case CC72, Place Bataillon, 34095 Montpellier Cedex 5, France
2 IAM, Observatoire de Marseille, 2 place Le Verrier, 13248 Marseille Cedex 4, France
3 378433 Byurakan Astrophysical Observatory & Isaac Newton Institute of Chile, Armenian Branch, Ashtarak d-ct, Armenia
4 Laboratoire d'Astrophysique, Observatoire de Grenoble, Université Joseph Fourier, BP 53, 38041 Grenoble Cedex 9, France
Corresponding author: N. Mauron, email@example.com
Accepted: 19 January 2004
We present the first results of a new survey for finding cool N-type carbon (C) stars in the halo of the Galaxy. Candidates were first selected in the 2MASS Second Incremental Release database with JHKs colours typical of red AGB C stars and , and subsequently checked through medium resolution slit spectroscopy. We discovered 27 new C stars plus one known previously and two similar objects in the Fornax and Sculptor dwarf galaxies. We determine and discuss the properties of our sample, including optical and near-infrared colours, radial velocities, as well as emission and variability that are frequent, all these characteristics being compatible with an AGB C-type classification. Surprisingly, of the 30 studied objects, 8 were found to have small but measurable proper motions (μ) in the USNO-B1.0 catalogue, ranging over mas yr-1 and opening the possibility that some objects could perhaps be dwarf carbon stars. Yet, a detailed analysis based on comparison with the sample of known carbon dwarfs leads us to consider these μ as incompatible with the broader picture suggested by the other data taken as a whole. So, we adopt the view that all objects are of AGB type, i.e. luminous and distant. Because the stream of Sagittarius dwarf galaxy is known to be the dominant source of luminous C stars in the halo, we chose to determine distances for our sample by scaling them on the 26 known AGB C stars of the Sgr galaxy itself, which are found to be, in the Ks-band, ~0.5 mag less luminous than the average LMC C stars for a given colour. The obtained distances of our halo stars range from 8 to 80 kpc from the Sun. Then, examination of position and radial velocities show that about half belong to the Sgr stream. Our findings suggest that numerous AGB C stars remain to be discovered in the halo. Long term Ks-band monitoring would be of great value to ascertain distance estimates through the period-luminosity relation, because a large fraction of our sample is probably made of Mira variables.
Key words: stars: carbon / surveys / Galaxy: halo / Galaxy: stellar content
Based on observations made at the European Southern Observatory, Chile (programs 67.B 0085AB, 69.B 0186A) and at the Haute Provence Observatory (France) operated by the Centre National de Recherche Scientifique, together with data from the 2MASS project (University of Massachusetts and IPAC/Caltech, USA).
© ESO, 2004