Blue horizontal-branch stars in old, metal-rich stellar systems

Ruth C. Peterson, Bruce W. Carney, Ben Dorman, Elizabeth M. Green, Wayne Landsman, James Liebert, Robert W. O'Connell, Robert T. Rood

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Twenty years ago, Burstein et al. recognized that the metal-rich globular clusters in the Andromeda galaxy (M31) exhibited anomalously strong Balmer and CN lines compared to Milky Way clusters. They suggested that younger ages might be the cause, unless blue stars above the main-sequence turnoff or on the horizontal branch were uncommonly prominent. Here we test these suggestions by fitting the detailed mid-ultraviolet (2280-3120 Å) and optical (3850-4750 Å) spectra of one moderately metal-rich M31 globular cluster, G1. We explore the effects of a wide range of nonsolar temperatures and abundance ratios, by combining a small set of theoretical stellar spectra, such as those calculated by Peterson, Dorman, & Rood in 2001 using extensively updated atomic line constants. To match the mid-UV fluxes of G1, we find that hot components with Teff ≥ 8000 K must be included. We obtain a very good fit with cool and hot blue horizontal-branch (BHB) stars, but less satisfactory fits for blue straggler stars, those hotter than the main-sequence turnoff. The G1 color-magnitude diagram does show cool BHB stars, and the color of its giant branch supports the metallicity of one-sixth the solar value deduced from the composite spectrum with BHB stars. The turnoff temperature of the best-fit model is consistent with that of turnoff stars in Galactic globular clusters and the field halo, indicating that G1 is comparably old. Because metal-rich cool BHB and extremely blue HB stars have now been found within our own Galaxy - in open clusters, globular clusters, and the field of the bulge - we suggest that these hot HB stars be considered in fitting spectra of metal-rich populations, such as the Andromeda globular clusters, to avoid possible underestimates of their ages. We plan to make the relevant spectral calculations available as part of our Hubble Treasury program.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)299-310
Number of pages12
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1 I
StatePublished - May 1 2003


  • Galaxies: star clusters
  • Globular clusters: general
  • Globular clusters: individual (M31 G1, Mayall II)
  • Stars: horizontal-branch
  • Ultraviolet: galaxies
  • Ultraviolet: stars

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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