Context. Asymptotic giant branch (AGB) stars are major contributors to both the chemical enrichment of the interstellar medium and the integrated light of galaxies. Despite its importance, the AGB is one of the least understood phases of stellar evolution. The main difficulties associated with detailed modelling of the AGB are related to the mass-loss process and the 3rd dredge-up efficiency
Aims: We provide direct measures of mass-loss rates and luminosities for a complete sample of AGB stars in the Large Magellanic Cloud, disentangling the C- and O-rich stellar populations.
Methods: Dust radiative transfer models are presented for all 374 AGB stars candidates in one of the fields observed by the new VISTA survey of the Magellanic Clouds (VMC). Mass-loss rates, luminosities and a classification of C- and O-rich stars are derived by fitting the models to the spectral energy distribution (SED) obtained by combining VMC data with existing optical, near-, and mid-infrared photometry.
Results: The classification technique is reliable at a level of - at worst - 75% and significantly better for the reddest dusty stars. We classified none of the stars with a relevant mass-loss rate as O-rich, and we can exclude the presence of more than one dusty O-rich star at a ~ 94% level. The bolometric luminosity function we obtained is fully consistent with most of the literature data on the LMC and with the prediction of theoretical models, with a peak of the C-star distribution at Mbol ≃ -4.8 mag and no stars brighter than the classical AGB tip, at Mbol = -7.1 mag.
Conclusions: This exploratory study shows that our method provides reliable mass-loss rates, luminosities and chemical classifications for all AGB stars. These results offer already important constraints to AGB evolutionary models. Most of our conclusions, especially for the rarer dust-enshrouded extreme AGB stars, are however strongly limited by the relatively small area covered by our study. Forthcoming VMC observations will easily remove this limitation.
Astronomy and Astrophysics
- Pub Date:
- January 2012
- stars: AGB and post-AGB;
- stars: mass-loss;
- Magellanic Clouds;
- Astrophysics - Cosmology and Nongalactic Astrophysics
- 12 pages, 10 figures. Accepted for publication in A&