Letter to the Editor
New clues to the cosmological Li problem from old stars in external galaxies
Universidad de Concepción,
Casilla 160-C, Concepción, Chile e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
2 European Southern Observatory, Casilla 19001, Santiago, Chile
3 GEPI, Observatoire de Paris, CNRS, Université Paris Diderot, Place Jules Janssen, 92190 Meudon, France
4 Istituto Nazionale di Astrofisica – Osservatorio Astronomico di Trieste, Italy via G. B. Tiepolo 11, 34143 Trieste, Italy
5 Max Planck Institut for Astrophysics Karl-Schwarzschild-Str. 1, 85741 Garching, Germany
6 Istituto Nazionale di Astrofisica – Osservatorio Astronomico di Bologna, Via Ranzani 1, 40127 Bologna, Italy
Accepted: 27 July 2010
Context. A discrepancy has emerged between the cosmic lithium abundance inferred by the WMAP satellite measurement coupled with the prediction of the standard big-bang nucleosynthesis theory, and the constant Li abundance measured in metal-poor halo dwarf stars (the so-called Spite plateau). Several models are being proposed to explain this discrepancy, involving either new physics, in situ depletion, or the efficient depletion of Li in the pristine Galaxy by a generation of massive first stars. The realm of possibilities may be narrowed considerably by observing stellar populations in different galaxies, which have experienced different evolutionary histories.
Aims. The ω Centauri stellar system is commonly considered as the remnant of a dwarf galaxy accreted by the Milky Way. We investigate the lithium content of a conspicuous sample of unevolved stars in this object.
Methods. We obtained moderate resolution (R = 17 000) spectra for 91 main-sequence/early sub-giant branch (MS/SGB) ω Cen stars using the FLAMES-GIRAFFE/VLT spectrograph. Lithium abundances were derived by matching the equivalent width of the Li i resonance doublet at 6708 Å to the prediction of synthetic spectra computed with different Li abundances. Synthetic spectra were computed using the SYNTHE code along with ATLAS–9 model atmospheres. The stars effective temperatures are derived by fitting the wings of the H line with synthetic profiles.
Results. We obtain a mean content of A(Li) = 2.19 ± 0.14 dex for ω Centauri MS/SGB stars. This is comparable to what is observed in Galactic halo field stars of similar metallicities and temperatures.
Conclusions. The Spite plateau seems to be an ubiquitous feature of old, warm metal-poor stars. It exists also in external galaxies, if we accept the current view about the origin of ω Cen. This implies that the mechanism(s) that causes the “cosmological lithium problem” may be the same in the Milky Way and other galaxies.
Key words: nuclear reactions, nucleosynthesis, abundances / stars: abundances / stars: population II / cosmology: observations / globular clusters: individual: ω Cen / galaxies: abundances
Based on observations taken at ESO VLT Kueyen telescope (Cerro Paranal, Chile, program: 079.D-0021A).
Tables 1 and 2 are only available in electronic form at http://www.aanda.org
© ESO, 2010