On the metallicity dependence of crystalline silicates in oxygen-rich asymptotic giant branch stars and red supergiants


E-mail: ojones@jb.man.ac.uk


We investigate the occurrence of crystalline silicates in oxygen-rich evolved stars across a range of metallicities and mass-loss rates. It has been suggested that the crystalline silicate feature strength increases with increasing mass-loss rate, implying a correlation between lattice structure and wind density. To test this, we analyse Spitzer Infrared Spectrograph and Infrared Space Observatory Short Wavelength Spectrometer spectra of 217 oxygen-rich asymptotic giant branch and 98 red supergiants in the Milky Way, the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds, and Galactic globular clusters. These encompass a range of spectral morphologies from the spectrally rich which exhibit a wealth of crystalline and amorphous silicate features to ‘naked’ (dust-free) stars. We combine spectroscopic and photometric observations with the grams grid of radiative transfer models to derive (dust) mass-loss rates and temperature. We then measure the strength of the crystalline silicate bands at 23, 28 and 33 μm. We detect crystalline silicates in stars with dust mass-loss rates which span over 3 dex, down to rates of ∼10−9 M yr−1. Detections of crystalline silicates are more prevalent in higher mass-loss rate objects, though the highest mass-loss rate objects do not show the 23-μm feature, possibly due to the low temperature of the forsterite grains or it may indicate that the 23-μm band is going into absorption due to high column density. Furthermore, we detect a change in the crystalline silicate mineralogy with metallicity, with enstatite seen increasingly at low metallicity.