A dearth of OH/IR stars in the Small Magellanic Cloud

Steven R. Goldman, Jacco Th. van Loon, José F. Gómez, James A. Green, Albert Zijlstra, Ambra Nanni, Hiroshi Imai, Patricia A. Whitelock, Martin A. T. Groenewegen, Joana M. Oliveira

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    We present the results of targeted observations and a survey of 1612-, 1665-, and 1667-MHz circumstellar OH maser emission from asymptotic giant branch (AGB) stars and red supergiants (RSGs) in the Small Magellanic Cloud (SMC), using the Parkes and Australia Telescope Compact Array radio telescopes. No clear OH maser emission has been detected in any of our observations targeting luminous, long-period, large-amplitude variable stars, which have been confirmed spectroscopically and photometrically to be mid- to late-M spectral type. These observations have probed 3≠4 times deeper than any OH maser survey in the SMC. Using a bootstrapping method with LMC and Galactic OH/IR star samples and our SMC observation upper limits, we have calculated the likelihood of not detecting maser emission in any of the two sources considered to be the top maser candidates to be less than 0.05%, assuming a similar pumping mechanism as the LMC and Galactic OH/IR sources. We have performed a population comparison of the Magellanic Clouds and used Spitzer IRAC and MIPS photometry to confirm that we have observed all high luminosity SMC sources that are expected to exhibit maser emission. We suspect that, compared to the OH/IR stars in the Galaxy and LMC, the reduction in metallicity may curtail the dusty wind phase at the end of the evolution of the most massive cool stars. We also suspect that the conditions in the circumstellar envelope change beyond a simple scaling of abundances and wind speed with metallicity.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
    Publication statusPublished - 9 Oct 2017


    • masers – stars: AGB and post-AGB
    • supergiants – stars: mass-loss
    • stars: winds, outflows
    • Magellanic Clouds


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