We report on an analysis of the gas and dust budget in the interstellar medium (ISM) of the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC). Recent observations from the Spitzer Space Telescope enable us to study the mid-infrared dust excess of asymptotic giant branch (AGB) stars in the LMC. This is the first time we can quantitatively assess the gas and dust input from AGB stars over a complete galaxy, fully based on observations. The integrated mass-loss rate over all intermediate and high mass-loss rate carbon-rich AGB candidates in the LMC is 8.5 × 10−3 M⊙ yr−1, up to 2.1 × 10−2 M⊙ yr−1. This number could be increased up to 2.7 × 10−2 M⊙ yr−1 if oxygen-rich stars are included. This is overall consistent with theoretical expectations, considering the star formation rate (SFR) when these low- and intermediate-mass stars where formed, and the initial mass functions.
AGB stars are one of the most important gas sources in the LMC, with supernovae (SNe), which produces about 2–4 × 10−2 M⊙ yr−1. At the moment, the SFR exceeds the gas feedback from AGB stars and SNe in the LMC, and the current star formation depends on gas already present in the ISM. This suggests that as the gas in the ISM is exhausted, the SFR will eventually decline in the LMC, unless gas is supplied externally.
Our estimates suggest ‘a missing dust-mass problem’ in the LMC, which is similarly found in high-z galaxies: the accumulated dust mass from AGB stars and possibly SNe over the dust lifetime (400–800 Myr) is significant less than the dust mass in the ISM. Another dust source is required, possibly related to star-forming regions.