A luminous yellow post-AGB star in the galactic globular cluster M79

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Abstract

We report the discovery of a luminous F-type post-asymptotic-giant-branch (PAGB) star in the Galactic globular cluster (GC) M79 (NGC 1904). At visual apparent and absolute magnitudes of V = 12.20 and MV = -3.46, this "yellow" PAGB star is by a small margin the visually brightest star known in any GC. It was identified using CCD observations in the uBVI photometric system, which is optimized to detect stars with large Balmer discontinuities, indicative of very low surface gravities. Follow-up observations with the SMARTS 1.3 and 1.5 m telescopes show that the star is not variable in light or radial velocity, and that its velocity is consistent with cluster membership. Near- and mid-infrared observations with 2MASS and WISE show no evidence for circumstellar dust. We argue that a sharp upper limit to the luminosity function exists for yellow PAGB stars in old populations, making them excellent candidates for Population II standard candles, which are four magnitudes brighter than RR Lyrae variables. Their luminosities are consistent with the stars being in a PAGB evolutionary phase, with core masses of ∼0.53 M. We also detected four very hot stars lying above the horizontal branch ("AGB-manque" stars); along with the PAGB star, they are the brightest objects in M79 in the near-ultraviolet. In the Appendix, we give periods and light curves for five variables in M79: three RR Lyrae stars, a Type II Cepheid, and a semiregular variable.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number40
JournalAstronomical Journal
Volume151
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 1 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science

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