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AGB Stars in the Disk, Satellites, and Halo of M31

  • Author(s): Hamren, Katherine
  • Advisor(s): GuhaThakurta, Puragra
  • et al.
Abstract

Asymptotic giant branch (AGB) stars are simultaneously one of the most important and least well understood phases of stellar evolution. Luminous, red, AGB stars are excellent tracers of kinematical and morphological structure, and track the presence of intermediate age populations. In addition, they contribute significantly to the near-infrared (NIR) flux and gas/dust budgets of galaxies. As a result, they are essential for studying galaxies in both the local and distance universe. However, their observable properties depend on complicated physical processes, including dredge-up, dust production, and stellar pulsations. As a result, they are extraordinarily difficult to model on both the individual and population-level scales. Homogenous samples of AGB stars are necessary to calibrate the ever improving models. In this thesis I use data from the Spectroscopic and Photometric Landscape of Andromeda’s Stellar Halo (SPLASH) survey to identify and characterize clean, homogenous samples of carbon- and oxygen-rich AGB stars (carbon stars and M-stars, respectively) in the disk, satellites and halo of the Andromeda galaxy (M31). Using these stars, I constrain the ratio (C/M) of carbon- to oxygen-rich in fields throughout the M31 system, compare the AGB stars to their observationally similar contaminants (extrinsic carbon stars and oxygen-rich red giant branch stars), and discuss major physical properties (color, temperature, metallicity, dust production, and variability).

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