A new mass-loss rate prescription for red supergiants

Emma R. Beasor, Ben Davies, Nathan Smith, Jacco Th van Loon, Robert D. Gehrz, Donald F. Figer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

87 Scopus citations


Evolutionary models have shown the substantial effect that strong mass-loss rates (M s) can have on the fate of massive stars. Red supergiant (RSG) mass-loss is poorly understood theoretically, and so stellar models rely on purely empirical M -luminosity relations to calculate evolution. Empirical prescriptions usually scale with luminosity and effective temperature, but M should also depend on the current mass and hence the surface gravity of the star, yielding more than one possible M for the same position on the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram. One can solve this degeneracy by measuring M for RSGs that reside in clusters, where age and initial mass (Minit) are known. In this paper we derive M values and luminosities for RSGs in two clusters, NGC 2004 and RSGC1. Using newly derived Minit measurements, we combine the results with those of clusters with a range of ages and derive an Minit-dependent M prescription. When comparing this new prescription to the treatment of mass-loss currently implemented in evolutionary models, we find models drastically overpredict the total mass-loss, by up to a factor of 20. Importantly, the most massive RSGs experience the largest downward revision in their mass-loss rates, drastically changing the impact of wind mass-loss on their evolution. Our results suggest that for most initial masses of RSG progenitors, quiescent mass-loss during the RSG phase is not effective at removing a significant fraction of the H-envelope prior to core-collapse, and we discuss the implications of this for stellar evolution and observations of SNe and SN progenitors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5994-6006
Number of pages13
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2020


  • Galaxies: clusters: individual
  • Stars: evolution
  • Stars: mass-loss
  • Stars: massive
  • Supergiants

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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