On the AGB stars of M4: A robust disagreement between spectroscopic observations and theory

B. T. MacLean, S. W. Campbell, A. M. Amarsi, T. Nordlander, P. L. Cottrell, G. M. De Silva, J. Lattanzio, T. Constantino, V. D'Orazi, L. Casagrande

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Several recent spectroscopic investigations have presented conflicting results on the existence of Na-rich asymptotic giant branch (AGB) stars in the Galactic globular cluster M4 (NGC 6121). The studies disagree on whether or not Na-rich red giant branch (RGB) stars evolve to the AGB. For a sample of previously published HERMES/AAT AGB and RGB stellar spectra, we present a re-analysis of O, Na, and Fe abundances, and a new analysis of Mg and Al abundances; we also present CN band strengths for this sample, derived from low-resolution AAOmega spectra. Following a detailed literature comparison, we find that the AGB samples of all studies consistently show lower abundances of Na and Al, and are weaker in CN, than RGB stars in the cluster. This is similar to recent observations of AGB stars in NGC6752 and M62. In an attempt to explain this result, we present new theoretical stellar evolutionary models for M4; however, these predict that all stars, including Na-rich RGB stars, evolve on to the AGB. We test the robustness of our abundance results using a variety of atmospheric models and spectroscopic methods; however, we do not find evidence that systematic modelling uncertainties can explain the apparent lack of Na-rich AGB stars in M4. We conclude that an unexplained, but robust, discordance between observations and theory remains for the AGB stars in M4.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)373-395
Number of pages23
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 21 Nov 2018

Bibliographical note

This article has been accepted for publication in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, Volume 481, Issue 1, November 2018, Pages 373–395, https://doi.org/10.1093/mnras/sty2297. Copyright 2018 The Author(s). Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Royal Astronomical Society. All rights reserved.


  • Galaxy: abundances
  • Galaxy: formation
  • Galaxy: globular clusters: general
  • Stars: abundances
  • Stars: AGB and post-AGB


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