Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics, Kepler Center for Astro and
Particle Physics, Eberhard Karls University,
2 Institute of Theoretical Physics and Astronomy, Vilnius University, A. Goštauto 12, 01108 Vilnius, Lithuania
3 NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD 20771, USA
Received: 13 May 2014
Accepted: 3 December 2014
The discovery of technetium (Tc) in the atmospheres of red giants by Merrill (1952, ApJ, 116, 21) constituted convincing proof that s-process nucleosynthesis is indeed occurring in evolved stars. In principle, Tc should still be present in the atmospheres of hot post-AGB stars and (pre-) white dwarfs although, due to radioactive decay, it should be present in decreasing quantities along post-AGB evolution. The recent discovery of a large number of trans-iron group elements in hot white dwarfs with atomic numbers in the range A = 30–56 (Zn to Ba) raises the prospect that Tc (A = 43) may also be detected. However, this is currently not feasible because no atomic data exist for ionization stages beyond Tc ii. As an initial step, we calculated atomic energy levels and oscillator strengths of Tc iv–vi and used these data to compute non-local thermodynamic equilibrium (NLTE) model atmospheres to estimate at which minimum abundance level Tc could be detected. We show that Tc lines can be found in ultraviolet spectra of hot white dwarfs provided Tc is as abundant as other detected trans-Fe elements. We find that radiative levitation can keep Tc in large, easily detectable quantities in the atmosphere. A direct identification of Tc lines is still not feasible because wavelength positions cannot be computed with necessary precision. Laboratory measurements are necessary to overcome this problem. Our results suggest that such efforts are beneficial to the astrophysical community.
Key words: stars: abundances / stars: evolution / stars: AGB and post-AGB / white dwarfs / atomic data / line: identification
Based on observations with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, obtained at the Space Telescope Science Institute, which is operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc., under NASA contract NAS5-26666.
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