The Variable Stars and Blue Horizontal Branch of the Metal-rich Globular Cluster NGC 6441 Academic Article uri icon

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abstract

  • We present time-series VI photometry of the metal-rich ([Fe/H] = -0.53) globular cluster NGC 6441. Our color-magnitude diagram shows that the extended blue horizontal branch seen in Hubble Space Telescope data exists in the outermost reaches of the cluster. The red clump slopes nearly parallel to the reddening vector. A component of this slope is due to differential reddening, but part is intrinsic. The blue horizontal branch stars are more centrally concentrated than the red clump stars. We have discovered about 50 new variable stars near NGC 6441, among them eight or more RR Lyrae stars which are very probably cluster members. Comprehensive period searches over the range 0.2-1.0 days yielded unusually long periods (0.5-0.9 days) for the fundamental pulsators compared with field RR Lyrae of the same metallicity. Three similar long-period RR Lyrae are known in other metal-rich globulars. With over ten examples in hand, it seems that a distinct sub-class of RR Lyrae is emerging. The observed properties of the horizontal branch stars are in reasonable agreement with recent models which invoke deep mixing to enhance the atmospheric helium abundance, while they conflict with models which assume high initial helium abundance. The light curves of the c-type RR Lyrae seem to have unusually long rise times and sharp minima. Reproducing these light curves in stellar pulsation models may provide another means of constraining the physical variables responsible for the anomalous blue horizontal branch extension and sloped red clump observed in NGC 6441.

publication date

  • March 1999