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The Gaia Science Alerts project (GSA) aims to augment a precision survey of the Milky Way with a controlled, precision survey of all classes of transient phenomena. While onboard BP/RP spectra from Gaia will ultimately allow us to classify many Gaia Alerts based on Gaia data alone, in the initial phases of the GSA project it is necessary to verify and classify discoveries with ground-based spectroscopic followup. In this article, we describe a subset of the ongoing Gaia Alerts followup programmes, and some of the initial science results from this work.
The Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) is the closest large satellite of the Milky Way (MW) and the first step of the extragalactic distance scale, hence knowing the distance to the LMC and its three-dimensional structure contributes to the definition of the entire cosmic distance ladder. RR Lyrae stars are old objects which trace the halo of the LMC. They can be used as distance indicators because they follow a period-luminosity-metallicity (PLKsZ) relation in the Ks passband. The purpose of this study was the derivation of a new PLKsZ relation for RR Lyrae stars in the LMC based on the multi-epoch Ks photometry obtained by the VISTA survey of the Magellanic Clouds system (VMC, Cioni et al. 2011).
This paper gives a brief overview of the Gaia Research for European Astronomy Training (GREAT) network, including a description of the GREAT-ESF Research Network Programme and the GREAT Initial Training Network (GREAT-ITN). Scientific highlights from the GREAT-ITN are noted.
We present the variability processing and analysis that is foreseen for the Gaia mission within Coordination Unit 7 (CU7) of the Gaia Data Processing and Analysis Consortium (DPAC). A top level description of the tasks is given.
The Magellanic System represents one of the best places to study the formation and evolution of galaxies. Photometric surveys of various depths, areas and wavelengths have had a significant impact on our understanding of the system; however, a complete picture is still lacking. VMC (the VISTA near-infrared YJKs survey of the Magellanic System) will provide new data to derive the spatially resolved star formation history and to construct a three-dimensional map of the system. These data combined with those from other ongoing and planned surveys will give us an absolutely unique view of the system opening up the doors to truly new science!
We present the results of analysis of 1764 eclipsing binary stars (EBs) in the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) contaminating the sample of candidate Classical Cepheids (CCs) from the EROS-2 survey. These binaries have the same periods and luminosities as Classical Cepheids, but their colors are bluer. These EBs contain hot massive Main Sequence components and could be used as tracers of regions of recent star formation activity.
We present a project that aims to provide a complete theoretical and observational framework for an as yet unexplored class of variable stars, the ultralong-period Cepheids (P longer than 80–100 days). Given their very high luminosities (MV up to −7 mag), with the Hubble Space Telescope we will be able to observe them easily in stellar systems located at large distances (~ 100 Mpc). This limit will be further increased, out to the Hubble flow (~ 350 Mpc), using future ground-based facilities such as the European Extremely Large Telescope. The nature of their pulsation is as yet unclear, as is their evolutionary status, which seems different from the central helium-burning phase generally associated with classical Cepheids. These objects have been found to cover a very large metallicity range, from [Fe/H] ~ −2 dex to solar values, and they are located in heterogeneous stellar systems, from dwarf to spiral galaxies. Once completely characterized, they could provide a crucial test, since they have been found in all Type Ia supernova host spiral galaxies that have been monitored for variability over long periods and that currently offer sound constraints on the estimated value of the Hubble constant.
Pulsating variable stars are powerful tools to study the structure and evolution of
galaxies. Among different types of pulsating variables the Classical Cepheids trace the
young stellar component in galaxies, and are one of the most important primary stellar
distance indicators in establishing the cosmic distance scale. Instead, the RR Lyrae
stars, with ages comparable to the age of the Universe, eyewitnessed the processes
occurring in the very early times of galaxy formation, and thus can provide hints on how
galaxies have formed. The role played by the pulsating variable stars in our understanding
of the galactic structure and evolution is briefly reviewed in light of the promises of
the scientific exploitation of the Gaia mission.
We introduce the SMC in space and time, a large coordinated space and ground-based program to study star formation processes and history, as well as variable stars, structure, kinematics and chemical evolution of the whole SMC. Here, we present the Colour-Magnitude Diagrams (CMDs) resulting from HST/ACS photometry, aimed at deriving the star formation history (SFH) in six fields of the SMC. The fields are located in the central regions, in the stellar halo, and in the wing toward the LMC. The CMDs are very deep, well beyond the oldest Main Sequence Turn-Off, and will allow us to derive the SFH over the entire Hubble time.
The blue compact dwarf galaxy I Zw 18 holds the record of the lowest metallicity ever observed in the local universe. As such, it represents the closest analog to primordial galaxies in the early universe. More interestingly, it has recurrently been regarded as a genuinely young galaxy caught in the process of forming in the nearby universe. However, stars of increasingly older ages are found within I Zw 18 every time deeper high-resolution photometric observations are performed with the Hubble Space Telescope (HST): from the original few tens of Myrs to, possibly, several Gyrs. Here we summarize the history of I Zw 18 age and present an ongoing HST/ACS project which allowed us to precisely derive the galaxy distance by studying its Cepheid variables, and to firmly establish the age of its faintest resolved populations.
V, I time-series photometry of the new Milky Way satellite recently discovered in the Bootes constellation (Belokurov et al. 2006) was collected at the TNG, WIRO and Loiano telescopes and used to search for variable stars. We have identified a non-negligible population of RR Lyrae variables, which confirms the presence of an old population in this newly discovered structure. The distribution of periods coupled with information on the evolutionary status of the system derived fromthe color-magnitude diagram provide important hints on the nature and history of this intriguing new companion of the Milky Way.
We have applied the Image Subtraction to B,V time-series photometry of four globular clusters of the Fornax dwarf spheoridal galaxy, which were observed with the 2.2m ESO-MPI, the 6.5m Magellan/Clay, the 4m CTIO/Blanco telescopes and the WFPC2 on board of HST. We have identified RR Lyrae stars and obtained well sampled light curves for the clusters' variables. From the periods and pulsation properties of their RR Lyrae stars Fornax globular clusters seem to be of Oosterhoff intermediate type.
We present results from new deep HST/ACS photometry of I Zw 18, the most metal-poor blue compact dwarf galaxy in the nearby universe. It has been previously argued that this is a very young system that started forming stars only ≲500 Gyr ago, but other work has hinted that older (≳1 Gyr) red giant branch (RGB) stars may exist in this galaxy. Our deeper data indeed reveal evidence for an RGB. Underlying old (≳1 Gyr) populations are therefore present in even the most metal-poor systems, implying that star formation started at z ≳ 0.1. The RGB tip (TRGB) magnitude and the properties of Cepheid variables identified from our program indicate that I Zw 18 is farther away (D = 19.0 ± 1.8 Mpc) than previously believed.
We have combined B, V, I time-series photometry from three different telescopes (SUBARU, TNG and HST) to study the variable star population of the remote Galactic globular cluster NGC 2419 and derive hints on a possible extragalactic origin for this cluster. We have discovered 40 new variables (34 RR Lyrae stars, 3 SX Phoenicis stars, Scuti 1 eclipsing binary system and 2 red irregular variables) doubling the number of known variable stars in NGC 2419.
In the framework of an ongoing ACS@HST project (HST program #10586, PI: Aloisi) we have obtained deep multi-color imaging of the very metal-poor Blue Compact Dwarf galaxy IZw18. The data were acquired in time-series fashion to allow the identification of Classical Cepheids (CCs). The main aim of this project is to constrain both the distance and the Star Formation History of the galaxy. However, as a byproduct these data also provide new insights into the properties of CCs at very low metallicities. We have identified 24 candidate CCs in IZw18. New theoretical pulsation models of CCs specifically for the low metallicity of this primordial galaxy (Z=0.0004, Y=0.24) have been computed to interpret our results.
We present an overview of our study of the short period variable stars in the Large Magellanic Cloud, and in the dwarf galaxies Fornax, Leo I, and NGC 6822. Light curves are presented for RR Lyrae stars, Anomalous Cepheids and, for the first time, for Dwarf Cepheids in the field and in the globular cluster #3 of the Fornax galaxy.
Candidate RR Lyrae variables have been identified for the first time in four globular clusters of the Andromeda galaxy (M31). Using HST-WFPC2 archive observations we have found 2, 4, 11 and 8 RR Lyrae variables of both ab and c Bailey types in G11, G33, G64 and G322 (Sargent et al., 1977), respectively. These numbers are quite consistent with the horizontal branch morphology exhibited by the four clusters.
We present new results on a sample of RR Lyrae variables in the bar of the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC), and report on the first detection of RR Lyrae in the dwarf spheroidal galaxy Leo I. Emphasis is given to the discussion of the distances to these galaxies as derived from their RR Lyrae populations, and of the impact on the “short” and “long” distance scale dichotomy.
The Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) is widely considered a corner-stone of the astronomical distance scale. However, a difference of 0.2−0.3 mag exists in its distance as predicted by the short and long distance scales. Distances to the LMC from Population II objects are founded on the RR Lyrae variables. We have undertaken an observational campaign devoted to the definition of the average apparent luminosity, and to the study of the mass–metallicity relation for RR Lyrae stars in the bar of the LMC. These are compared with analogous quantities for cluster RR Lyrae stars. The purpose is to see whether an intrinsic difference in luminosity, possibly due to a difference in mass, might exist between field and cluster RR Lyrae stars, which could be responsible for the well-known dichotomy between short and long distance scales. Preliminary results are presented on the V and B − V light curves, the average apparent visual magnitude, and the pulsational properties of 102 RR Lyrae stars in the bar of the LMC, observed at ESO in January 1999. The photometric data are accurately tied to the Johnson photometric system. Comparison is presented with the photometry of RR Lyrae stars in the bar of the LMC obtained by the MACHO collaboration (Alcock et al. 1996). Our sample includes 9 double-mode RR Lyrae stars selected from Alcock et al. (1997) for which an estimate of the metal abundance from the ΔS method is presented.