The VMC Survey: XXXVII. Pulsation periods of dust-enshrouded AGB stars in the Magellanic Clouds

M. A. T. Groenewegen, A. Nanni, M.-R. L. Cioni, L. Girardi, R. De Grijs, V. D. Ivanov, M. Marconi, M.-I. Moretti, J. M. Oliveira, M. G. Petr-Gotzens, V. Ripepi, J. Th van Loon

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Context. Variability is a key property of stars on the asymptotic giant branch (AGB). Their pulsation period is related to the luminosity and mass-loss rate of the star. Long-period variables (LPVs) and Mira variables are the most prominent of all types of variability of evolved stars. The reddest, most obscured AGB stars are too faint in the optical and have eluded large variability surveys.

Aims. We obtained a sample of LPVs by analysing K-band light curves (LCs) of a large number of sources in the direction of the Magellanic Clouds with the colours expected for red AGB stars ((J-K) > 3 mag or equivalent in other colour combinations).

Methods. Selection criteria were derived based on colour-colour and colour-magnitude diagrams from the combination of the VISTA Magellanic Cloud (VMC) survey, Spitzer IRAC and AllWISE data. After eliminating LPVs with known periods shorter than 450 days, a sample of 1299 candidate obscured AGB stars was selected. K-band LCs were constructed by combining the epoch photometry available in the VMC survey with literature data, were analysed for variability, and fitted with a single period sine curve to derive mean magnitudes, amplitudes, and periods. A subset of 254 stars are either new variables, known variables where the period we find is better determined than the literature value, or variables with periods longer than 1000 days. The spectral energy distributions (SEDs) of these stars were fitted to a large number of templates. For this purpose the SEDs and Spitzer IRS spectra of some non-AGB stars (Be stars, HII regions and young stellar objects-YSOs) were also fitted to have templates of the most likely contaminants in the sample. 

Results. A sample of 217 likely LPVs is found. Thirty-four stars have periods longer than 1000 days, although some of them have alternative shorter periods. The longest period of a known Mira in the Magellanic Clouds from Optical Gravitational Lensing Experiment data (with P = 1810 d) is derived to have a period of 2075 d based on its infrared LC. Two stars are found to have longer periods, but both have lower luminosities and smaller pulsation amplitudes than expected for Miras. Mass-loss rates and luminosities are estimated from the template fitting. Period-luminosity relations are presented for carbon (C-) and oxygen (O-) rich Miras that appear to be extensions of relations derived in the literature for shorter periods. The fit for the C stars is particularly well defined (with 182 objects) and reads Mbol = (-2.27 ± 0.20) . log P + (1.45 ± 0.54) mag with an rms of 0.41 mag. Thirty-four stars show pulsation properties typical of Miras while the SEDs indicate that they are not. Overall, the results of the LC fitting are presented for over 200 stars that are associated with YSOs.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberA48
Pages (from-to)1-31
Number of pages31
JournalAstronomy and Astrophysics
Publication statusPublished - 15 Apr 2020

Bibliographical note

Reproduced with permission from Astronomy & Astrophysics, Copyright 2020 ESO. First published in Astronomy and Astrophysics, 636, A48, 2020, published by EDP Sciences. The original publication is available at Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • Magellanic Clouds
  • Stars: AGB and post-AGB
  • Stars: variables: general


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