Rubidium abundances in solar metallicity stars

Abia, C.; de Laverny, P.; Korotin, S.; Asensio Ramos, A.; Recio-Blanco, A.; Prantzos, N.
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Astronomy and Astrophysics

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Context. Rubidium is one of the few elements produced by the neutron capture s- and r-processes in almost equal proportions. Recently, a Rb deficiency ([Rb/Fe] < 0.0), amounting to a factor of about two with respect to the Sun, has been found in M dwarfs of near-solar metallicity. This stands in contrast to the close-to-solar [Sr, Zr/Fe] ratios derived in the same stars. This deficiency is difficult to understand from the point of view of observations and of nucleosynthesis.
Aims: To test the reliability of this Rb deficiency, we study the Rb and Zr abundances in a sample of KM-type giant stars across a similar metallicity range, extracted from the AMBRE Project.
Methods: We used high-resolution and high signal-to-noise spectra to derive Rb and Zr abundances in a sample of 54 bright giant stars with metallicities in the range of ‒0.6 ≲ [Fe/H] ≲ +0.4 dex, via spectral synthesis in both local and non-local thermodynamic equilibrium (LTE and NLTE, respectively). We also studied the impact of the Zeeman broadening in the profile of the Rb I at λ7800 Å line.
Results: The LTE analysis also results in a Rb deficiency in giant stars, however, it is considerably lower than that obtained in M dwarfs. However, once NLTE corrections are performed, the [Rb/Fe] ratios are very close to solar (average ‒0.01 ± 0.09 dex) in the full metallicity range studied here. This stands in contrast to the value found for M dwarfs. The [Zr/Fe] ratios derived are in excellent agreement with those obtained in previous studies in FGK dwarf stars with a similar metallicity. We investigate the effect of gravitational settling and magnetic activity as possible causes of the Rb deficiency found in M dwarfs. Although the former phenomenon has a negligible impact on the surface Rb abundance, the presence of an average magnetic field with an intensity that is typical of that observed in M dwarfs may result in systematic Rb abundance underestimations if the Zeeman broadening is not considered in the spectral synthesis. This may explain the Rb deficiency in M dwarfs, but not fully. On the other hand, the new [Rb/Fe] and [Rb/Zr] versus [Fe/H] relationships can be explained when the Rb production by rotating massive stars and low-to-intermediate mass stars (these latter also producing Zr) are considered, without the need to deviate from the standard s-process nucleosynthesis in asymptotic giant branch stars, as suggested previously.
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