Lithium inventory of 2 M o red clump stars in open clusters: A test of the helium flash mechanism

Joleen K. Carlberg, Katia Cunha, Verne V. Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


The temperature distribution of field Li-rich red giants suggests the presence of a population of Li-rich red clump (RC) stars. One proposed explanation for this population is that all stars with masses near 2 M o experience a short-lived phase of Li-richness at the onset of core He-burning. Many of these stars have low 12C/13C, a signature of deep mixing that is presumably associated with the Li regeneration. To test this purported mechanism of Li enrichment, we measured abundances in 38 RC stars and 6 red giant branch (RGB) stars in four open clusters selected to have RC masses near 2 M o. We find six Li-rich stars (A(Li) ≥ 1.50 dex) of which only two may be RC stars. None of the RC stars have Li exceeding the levels observed in the RGB stars, but given the brevity of the suggested Li-rich phase and the modest sample size, it is probable that stars with larger Li-enrichments were missed simply by chance. However, we find very few stars in our sample with low 12C/13C. Such low 12C/13C, seen in many field Li-rich stars, should persist even after lithium has returned to normal low levels. Thus, if Li synthesis during the He flash occurs, it is a rare, but potentially long-lived occurrence rather than a short-lived phase for all stars. We estimate a conservative upper limit of the fraction of stars going through a Li-rich phase to be , based on stars that have low 12C/13C for their observed A(Li).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number129
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 20 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • open clusters and associations: individual (Collinder 110, NGC 2204, NGC 2506, NGC 6583)
  • stars: abundances
  • stars: late-type

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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