Origin of the early-type R stars: a binary-merger solution to a century-old problem?
Astronomical Institute Utrecht, Postbus 80000, 3508 TA Utrecht, The Netherlands e-mail: R.G.Izzard@phys.uu.nl
2 School of Mathematical Sciences, PO Box 28M, Monash University, Victoria 3800, Australia
3 Armagh Observatory, College Hill, Armagh BT61 9DG, Northern Ireland
Accepted: 2 May 2007
The early-R stars are carbon-rich K-type giants. They are enhanced in 12C, 13C and 14N, have approximately solar oxygen, magnesium isotopes, s-process and iron abundances, have the luminosity of core-helium burning stars, are not rapid rotators, are members of the Galactic thick disk and, most peculiarly of all, are all single stars. Conventional single-star evolutionary models cannot explain such stars, but mergers in binary systems have been proposed to explain their origin. We have synthesized binary star populations to calculate the number of merged stars with helium cores which could be early-R stars. We find many possible evolutionary channels. The most common of which is the merger of a helium white dwarf with a hydrogen-burning red giant branch star during a common envelope phase followed by a helium flash in a rotating core which mixes carbon to the surface. All the channels together give ten times more early-R stars than we require to match recent Hipparcos observations – we discuss which channels are likely to be the true early-R stars and which are not. For the first time we have constructed a viable model of the early-R stars with which we can test some of our ideas regarding common envelope evolution in giants, stellar mergers, rotation, the helium flash and the origin of the early-R stars.
Key words: stars: AGB and post-AGB / stars: binaries: general / stars: carbon / stars: rotation / stars: chemically peculiar
© ESO, 2007