The origin of blue straggler stars (BSS) in globular clusters (GCs) is still not fully understood: they can form from stellar collisions, or through mass transfer in isolated, primordial binaries (PBs). In this paper we use the radial distribution of BSS observed in four GCs (M3, 47 Tue, NGC 6752 and ω Cen) to investigate which formation process prevails. We find that both channels co-exist in all the considered GCs. The fraction of mass-transfer (collisional) BSS with respect to the total number of BSS is around ∼0.4-0.5 (∼0.5-0.6) in M3, 47 Tuc and NGC 6752. The case of ωCen is peculiar with an underproduction of collisional BSS. The relative lack of collisional BSS in ωCen can be understood if mass segregation has not yet driven to the core a sizeable number of PBs, which dominate stellar collisions through three-and four-body processes. The spatial distribution of BSS provides strong hints to their origin: the BSS in the cluster outskirts form almost exclusively from mass transfer in PBs, whereas the BSS found close to the cluster core most likely have a collisional origin.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Astronomy and Astrophysics
- Space and Planetary Science