The macho project 9 million star color-magnitude diagram of the large magellanic cloud

C. Alcock, R. A. Allsman, D. R. Alves, T. S. Axelrod, A. Basu, A. C. Becker, D. P. Bennett, K. H. Cook, A. J. Drake, K. C. Freeman, M. Geha, K. Griest, L. King, M. J. Lehner, S. L. Marshall, D. Minniti, C. A. Nelson, B. A. Peterson, P. Popowski, M. R. PrattP. J. Quinn, C. W. Stubbs, W. Sutherland, A. B. Tomaney, T. Vandehei, D. L. Welch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

81 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

We present a 9 million star color-magnitude diagram (9M CMD) of the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) bar. The 9M CMD reveals a complex superposition of different-age and -metallicity stellar populations, with important stellar evolutionary phases occurring over 3 orders of magnitude in number density. First, we count the nonvariable red and blue supergiants and the associated Cepheid variables and measure the stellar effective temperatures defining the Cepheid instability strip. Lifetime predictions of stellar evolution theory are tested, with implications for the origin of low-luminosity Cepheids. The highly evolved asymptotic giant branch (AGB) stars in the 9M CMD have a bimodal distribution in brightness, which we interpret as discrete old populations (≳1 Gyr). The faint AGB sequence may be metal-poor and very old. Comparing the mean properties of giant branch and horizontal-branch (HB) stars in the 9M CMD with those of clusters, we identify NGC 411 and M3 as templates for the admixture of old stellar populations in the bar. However, there are several indications that the old and metal-poor field population has a red HB morphology: the RR Lyrae variables lie preferentially on the red edge of the instability strip, the AGB bump is very red, and the ratio of AGB bump stars to RR Lyrae variables is quite large. If the HB second parameter is age, the old and metal-poor field population in the bar likely formed after the oldest LMC clusters. Lifetime predictions of stellar evolution theory lead us to associate a significant fraction of the ∼1 million red HB clump giants in the 9M CMD with the same old and metal-poor population producing the RR Lyrae stars and the AGB bump. In this case, compared with the age-dependent luminosity predictions of stellar evolution theory, the red HB clump is too bright relative to the RR Lyrae stars and AGB bump. Last, we show that the surface density profile of RR Lyrae variables is fitted by an exponential, favoring a disklike rather than a spheroidal distribution. We conclude that the age of the LMC disk is probably similar to the age of the Galactic disk.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2194-2213
Number of pages20
JournalAstronomical Journal
Volume119
Issue number5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - May 2000

Keywords

  • Cepheids
  • Color-magnitude diagrams
  • Galaxies: stellar content
  • Magellanic Clouds
  • RR Lyrae variable
  • Stars: evolution
  • Stars: horizontal-branch
  • Stars: variables: other
  • Supergiants

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science

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