Large Magellanic Cloud Planetary Nebula Morphology: Probing Stellar Populations and Evolution

Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, Maryland, United States
The Astrophysical Journal (Impact Factor: 6.28). 03/2000; 534(2). DOI: 10.1086/312667
Source: arXiv

ABSTRACT Planetary Nebulae (PNe) in the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) offer the unique opportunity to study both the Population and evolution of low- and intermediate-mass stars, by means of the morphological type of the nebula. Using observations from our LMC PN morphological survey, and including images available in the HST Data Archive, and published chemical abundances, we find that asymmetry in PNe is strongly correlated with a younger stellar Population, as indicated by the abundance of elements that are unaltered by stellar evolution (Ne, Ar, S). While similar results have been obtained for Galactic PNe, this is the first demonstration of the relationship for extra-galactic PNe. We also examine the relation between morphology and abundance of the products of stellar evolution. We found that asymmetric PNe have higher nitrogen and lower carbon abundances than symmetric PNe. Our two main results are broadly consistent with the predictions of stellar evolution if the progenitors of asymmetric PNe have on average larger masses than the progenitors of symmetric PNe. The results bear on the question of formation mechanisms for asymmetric PNe, specifically, that the genesis of PNe structure should relate strongly to the Population type, and by inference the mass, of the progenitor star, and less strongly on whether the central star is a member of a close binary system. Comment: The Astrophysical Journal Letters, in press 4 figures

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