Controversial age spreads from the main sequence turn-off and red clump in intermediate-age clusters in the LMC⋆
1 Excellence Cluster Origin and Structure of the Universe, Boltzmannstr. 2, 85748 Garching bei München, Germany
2 Universitäts-Sternwarte München, Scheinerstraße 1, 81679 München, Germany
3 Astrophysics Research Institute, Liverpool John Moores University, 146 Brownlow Hill, Liverpool L3 5RF, UK
4 Space Telescope Science Institute, 3700 San Martin Drive, Baltimore, MD 21218, USA
5 European Southern Observatory, Karl-Schwarzschild-Straße 2, 85748 Garching bei München, Germany
6 Astronomical Institute Anton Pannekoek, Amsterdam University, Science Park 904, 1098 XH, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
7 Purple Mountain Observatory, Chinese Academy of Sciences, 210008 Nanjing, PR China
8 Kavli Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics, Peking University, 100871 Beijing, PR China
9 Department of Astronomy, Peking University, 100871 Beijing, PR China
Received: 7 May 2015
Accepted: 26 October 2015
Most star clusters at an intermediate age (1−2 Gyr) in the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds show a puzzling feature in their color−magnitude diagrams (CMD) that is not in agreement with a simple stellar population. The main sequence turn-off of these clusters is much broader than expected from photometric uncertainties. One interpretation of this feature is that age spreads of the order of 200−500 Myr exist within individual clusters, although this interpretation is highly debated. Such large age spreads should affect other parts of the CMD, which are sensitive to age, as well. In this study, we analyze the CMDs of a sample of 12 intermediate-age clusters in the Large Magellanic Cloud that all show an extended turn-off using archival optical data taken with the Hubble Space Telescope. We fit the star formation history of the turn-off region and the red clump region independently. We find that in most cases, the age spreads inferred from the red clumps are smaller than those that result from the turn-off region. However, the age ranges that result from the red clump region are broader than expected for a single age. Only two out of 12 clusters in our sample show a red clump which seems to be consistent with a single age. As our results are ambiguous, by fitting the star formation histories to the red clump regions, we cannot ultimately tell if the extended main sequence turn-off feature is the result of an age spread or not. However, we do find that the width of the extended main sequence turn-off feature is correlated with the age of the clusters in a way which would be unexplained in the so-called age spread interpretation, but which may be expected if stellar rotation is the cause of the spread at the turn-off.
Key words: galaxies: star clusters: general / Magellanic Clouds / Hertzsprung-Russell and C-M diagrams / stars: evolution
Based on observations made with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, and obtained from the Hubble Legacy Archive, which is a collaboration between the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI/NASA), the Space Telescope European Coordinating Facility (ST-ECF/ESA), and the Canadian Astronomy Data Centre (CADC/NRC/CSA).
© ESO, 2016