Identification of red supergiants in nearby galaxies with mid-IR photometry

Research paper by N. E. Britavskiy, A. Z. Bonanos, A. Mehner, D. Garcia-Alvarez, J. L. Prieto, N. I. Morrell

Indexed on: 13 Jan '14Published on: 13 Jan '14Published in: arXiv - Astrophysics - Solar and Stellar Astrophysics


The role of episodic mass loss in massive star evolution is one of the most important open questions of current stellar evolution theory. Episodic mass loss produces dust and therefore causes evolved massive stars to be very luminous in the mid-infrared and dim at optical wavelengths. We aim to increase the number of investigated luminous mid-IR sources to shed light on the late stages of these objects. To achieve this we employed mid-IR selection criteria to identity dusty evolved massive stars in two nearby galaxies. The method is based on mid-IR colors, using 3.6 {\mu}m and 4.5 {\mu}m photometry from archival Spitzer Space Telescope images of nearby galaxies and J-band photometry from 2MASS. We applied our criteria to two nearby star-forming dwarf irregular galaxies, Sextans A and IC 1613, selecting eight targets, which we followed up with spectroscopy. Our spectral classification and analysis yielded the discovery of two M-type supergiants in IC 1613, three K-type supergiants and one candidate F-type giant in Sextans A, and two foreground M giants. We show that the proposed criteria provide an independent way for identifying dusty evolved massive stars, that can be extended to all nearby galaxies with available Spitzer/IRAC images at 3.6 {\mu}m and 4.5 {\mu}m.