Multiple populations in Omega Centauri: a cluster analysis of spectroscopic data

Research paper by Raffaele Gratton, Christian I. Johnson, Sara Lucatello, Valentina D'Orazi, Catherine A. Pilachowski

Indexed on: 27 May '11Published on: 27 May '11Published in: arXiv - Astrophysics - Astrophysics of Galaxies


Omega Cen is composed of several stellar populations. Their history might allow us to reconstruct the evolution of this complex object. We performed a statistical cluster analysis on the large data set provided by Johnson and Pilachowski (2010). Stars in Omega Cen divide into three main groups. The metal-poor group includes about a third of the total. It shows a moderate O-Na anticorrelation, and similarly to other clusters, the O-poor second generation stars are more centrally concentrated than the O-rich first generation ones. This whole population is La-poor, with a pattern of abundances for n-capture elements which is very close to a scaled r-process one. The metal-intermediate group includes the majority of the cluster stars. This is a much more complex population, with an internal spread in the abundances of most elements. It shows an extreme O-Na anticorrelation, with a very numerous population of extremely O-poor and He-rich second generation stars. This second generation is very centrally concentrated. This whole population is La-rich, with a pattern of the abundances of n-capture elements that shows a strong contribution by the s-process. The spread in metallicity within this metal-intermediate population is not very large, and we might attribute it either to non uniformities of an originally very extended star forming region, or to some ability to retain a fraction of the ejecta of the core collapse SNe that exploded first, or both. As previously noticed, the metal-rich group has an Na-O correlation, rather than anticorrelation. There is evidence for the contribution of both massive stars ending their life as core-collapse SNe, and intermediate/low mass stars, producing the s-capture elements. Kinematics of this population suggests that it formed within the cluster rather than being accreted.