The main aim of the present work is to derive an empirical mass-loss (ML) law for Population II stars in first and second ascent red giant branches. We used the Spitzer InfraRed Array Camera (IRAC) photometry obtained in the 3.6-8 micron range of a carefully chosen sample of 15 Galactic globular clusters spanning the entire metallicity range and sampling the vast zoology of horizontal branch (HB) morphologies. We complemented the IRAC photometry with near-infrared data to build suitable color-magnitude and color-color diagrams and identify mass-losing giant stars. We find that while the majority of stars show colors typical of cool giants, some stars show an excess of mid-infrared light that is larger than expected from their photospheric emission and that is plausibly due to dust formation in mass flowing from them. For these stars, we estimate dust and total (gas + dust) ML rates and timescales. We finally calibrate an empirical ML law for Population II red and asymptotic giant branch stars with varying metallicity. We find that at a given red giant branch luminosity only a fraction of the stars are losing mass. From this, we conclude that ML is episodic and is active only a fraction of the time, which we define as the duty cycle. The fraction of mass-losing stars increases by increasing the stellar luminosity and metallicity. The ML rate, as estimated from reasonable assumptions for the gas-to-dust ratio and expansion velocity, depends on metallicity and slowly increases with decreasing metallicity. In contrast, the duty cycle increases with increasing metallicity, with the net result that total ML increases moderately with increasing metallicity, about 0.1 Msun every dex in [Fe/H]. For Population II asymptotic giant branch stars, we estimate a total ML of <0.1 Msun, nearly constant with varying metallicity.
L. Origlia, F. Ferraro, S. Fabbri, et. al.
Tue, 18 Mar 14