Volume 644, December 2020
|Number of page(s)||14|
|Section||Stellar structure and evolution|
|Published online||16 December 2020|
The RGB tip of galactic globular clusters and the revision of the axion-electron coupling bound
INAF, Osservatorio d’Abruzzo, Via M. Maggini, 64100 Teramo, Italy
2 INFN, Laboratori Nazionali del Gran Sasso, Assergi, Italy
3 Dipartimento di Fisica e Astronomia, Università di Bologna, Via Gobetti 93/2, 40129 Bologna, Italy
4 INAF, Osservatorio di Astrofisica e Scienza dello Spazio di Bologna, Via Gobetti 93/3, 40129 Bologna, Italy
5 Departamento de Fisíca Teoríca y del Cosmos, Universidad de Granada, 18071 Granada, Spain
6 Physical Sciences, Barry University, 11300 NE 2nd Ave., Miami Shores 33161, USA
7 Dipartemento Interateneo di Fisica “Michelangelo Merlin”, Via Amendola 173, 70126 Bari, Italy
8 INFN, Sezione di Bari, Via Orabona 4, 70126 Bari, Italy
Accepted: 6 October 2020
Context. The production of neutrinos by plasma oscillations is the most important energy sink process operating in the degenerate core of low-mass red giant stars. This process counterbalances the release of energy induced by nuclear reactions and gravitational contraction, and determines the luminosity attained by a star at the moment of the He ignition. This occurrence coincides with the tip of the red giant branch (RGB), whose luminosity is extensively used as a calibrated standard candle in several cosmological studies.
Aims. We aim to investigate the possible activation of additional energy sink mechanisms, as predicted by many extensions of the so-called Standard Model. In particular, our objective is to test the possible production of axions or axion-like particles, mainly through their coupling with electrons.
Methods. By combining Hubble Space Telescope and ground-based optical and near-infrared photometric samples, we derived the RGB tip absolute magnitude of 22 galactic globular clusters (GGCs). The effects of varying the distance and the metallicity scales were also investigated. Then we compared the observed tip luminosities with those predicted by state-of-the-art stellar models that include the energy loss due to the axion production in the degenerate core of red giant stars.
Results. We find that theoretical predictions including only the energy loss by plasma neutrinos are, in general, in good agreement with the observed tip bolometric magnitudes, even though the latter are ∼0.04 mag brighter on average. This small shift may be the result of systematic errors affecting the evaluation of the RGB tip bolometric magnitudes, or, alternatively, it could be ascribed to an axion-electron coupling causing a non-negligible thermal production of axions. In order to estimate the strength of this possible axion sink, we performed a cumulative likelihood analysis using the RGB tips of the whole set of 22 GGCs. All the possible sources of uncertainties affecting both the measured bolometric magnitudes and the corresponding theoretical predictions were carefully considered. As a result, we find that the value of the axion-electron coupling parameter that maximizes the likelihood probability is gae/10−13 ∼ 0.60−0.58+0.32. This hint is valid, however, if the dominant energy sinks operating in the core of red giant stars are standard neutrinos and axions coupled with electrons. Any additional energy-loss process, not included in the stellar models, would reduce such a hint. Nevertheless, we find that values gae/10−13 > 1.48 can be excluded with 95% confidence.
Conclusions. The new bound we find represents the most stringent constraint for the axion-electron coupling available so far. The new scenario that emerges after this work represents a greater challenge for future experimental axion searches. In particular, we can exclude that the recent signal seen by the XENON1T experiment was due to solar axions.
Key words: elementary particles / stars: low-mass / globular clusters: general / Hertzsprung-Russell / C–M diagrams
© ESO 2020
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