Cool, Luminous, and Highly Variable Stars in the Magellanic Clouds. II: Spectroscopic and Environmental Analysis of Thorne-\.Zytkow Object and Super-AGB Star Candidates

Anna J. G. O'Grady, Maria R. Drout, B. M. Gaensler, C. S. Kochanek, Kathryn F. Neugent, Carolyn L. Doherty, Joshua S. Speagle, B. J. Shappee, Michael Rauch, Ylva Götberg, Bethany Ludwig, Todd A. Thompson

Submitted on 22 November 2022


In previous work we identified a population of 38 cool and luminous variable stars in the Magellanic Clouds and examined 11 in detail in order to classify them as either Thorne-\.Zytkow Objects (T\.ZOs, red supergiants with a neutron star cores) or super-AGB stars (the most massive stars that will not undergo core collapse). This population includes HV\,2112, a peculiar star previously considered in other works to be either a T\.ZO or high-mass AGB star. Here we continue this investigation, using the kinematic and radio environments and local star formation history of these stars to place constraints on the age of the progenitor systems and the presence of past supernovae. These stars are not associated with regions of recent star formation, and we find no evidence of past supernovae at their locations. Finally, we also assess the presence of heavy elements and lithium in their spectra compared to red supergiants. We find strong absorption in Li and s-process elements compared to RSGs in most of the sample, consistent with super-AGB nucleosynthesis, while HV\,2112 shows additional strong lines associated with T\.ZO nucleosynthesis. Coupled with our previous mass estimates, the results are consistent with the stars being massive (~4-6.5M) or super-AGB (~6.5-12M) stars in the thermally pulsing phase, providing crucial observations of the transition between low- and high-mass stellar populations. HV\,2112 is more ambiguous; it could either be a maximally massive sAGB star, or a T\.ZO if the minimum mass for stability extends down to <13 M.


Comment: 32 pages, 10 figures, 7 tables, spectroscopic data available at, accepted to The Astrophysical Journal

Subjects: Astrophysics - Solar and Stellar Astrophysics; Astrophysics - Astrophysics of Galaxies