Koninklijke Sterrenwacht van België, Ringlaan 3, 1180 Brussels, Belgium e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
2 Observatoire Astronomique, Université de Strasbourg & CNRS (UMR 7550), 11 rue de l'Université, 67000 Strasbourg, France
3 Instituut voor Sterrenkunde, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Celestijnenlaan 200 D, 3001 Leuven, Belgium
Accepted: 22 July 2009
Context. The asymptotic giant branch (AGB) phase is characterised by substantial mass loss that is accompanied by the formation of dust. In extreme cases this will make the star no longer visible in the optical. For a better understanding of AGB evolution it is important to identify and characterise these very red AGB stars.
Aims. The first aim of this article is to improve the census of red AGB stars in three Local Group galaxies, based on near-IR spectroscopic observations of new candidates with red 2MASS colours. The opportunity is taken to compare the near-IR spectra with those of Milky Way stars.
Methods. We used ISAAC on the ESO VLT to take J and H-band spectra of 36 targets in Fornax, Sculptor and NGC 6822.
Results. Twelve new C-stars are found in Fornax, and one is confirmed in Sculptor. All C-stars have , and are brighter than -3.55 in bolometric magnitude. Ten new oxygen-rich late-type giant stars are identified in Fornax, but none is extremely red or very luminous. Five luminous O-rich AGB stars are identified in NGC 6822, of which 3 show water absorption, indicative of spectral type M. Again, none is as red as Milky Way OH/IR stars, but in this galaxy the list of candidate AGB stars is biased against very red objects. In some C-stars with an extremely strong 1.53 μm absorption band is found. These stars are probably all Mira variables and the feature is related to the low temperature, high density chemistry that is a first step towards dust formation and mass loss.
Key words: stars: AGB and post-AGB / stars: carbon / galaxies: Local Group
© ESO, 2009