Author/s: García-Hernández, D. A.; Mészáros, Sz.; Monelli, M.; Cassisi, S.; Stetson, P. B.; Zamora, O.; Shetrone, M.; Lucatello, S.
Reference: 2015 ApJ 815 L4 | Link
Galactic globular clusters (GCs) are known to host multiple stellar populations: a first generation (FG) with a chemical pattern typical of halo field stars and a second generation (SG) enriched in Na and Al and depleted in O and Mg. Both stellar generations are found at different evolutionary stages (e.g., the main-sequence turnoff, the subgiant branch, and the red giant branch (RGB)). The non-detection of SG asymptotic giant branch (AGB) stars in several metal-poor ([Fe/H] < ‑1) GCs suggests that not all SG stars ascend the AGB phase, and that failed AGB stars may be very common in metal-poor GCs. This observation represents a serious problem for stellar evolution and GC formation/evolution theories. We have detected fourteen SG-AGB stars in four metal-poor GCs (M13, M5, M3, and M2) with different observational properties: horizontal branch (HB) morphology, metallicity, and age. By combining the H-band Al abundances obtained by the Apache Point Observatory Galactic Evolution Experiment survey with ground-based optical photometry, we identify SG Al-rich AGB stars in these four GCs and show that Al-rich RGB/AGB GC stars should be Na-rich. Our observations resolve the apparent problem for stellar evolution, supporting the existing horizontal branch star canonical models, and may help to discern the nature of the GC polluters.