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  1. Abstract The APOGEE Open Cluster Chemical Abundances and Mapping survey is used to probe the chemical evolution of the s-process element cerium in the Galactic disk. Cerium abundances were derived from measurements of Ce ii lines in the APOGEE spectra using the Brussels Automatic Code for Characterizing High Accuracy Spectra in 218 stars belonging to 42 open clusters. Our results indicate that, in general, for ages < 4 Gyr, younger open clusters have higher [Ce/Fe] and [Ce/ α -element] ratios than older clusters. In addition, metallicity segregates open clusters in the [Ce/X]–age plane (where X can be H, Fe, or the α -elements O, Mg, Si, or Ca). These metallicity-dependent relations result in [Ce/Fe] and [Ce/ α ] ratios with ages that are not universal clocks. Radial gradients of [Ce/H] and [Ce/Fe] ratios in open clusters, binned by age, were derived for the first time, with d [Ce/H]/ d R GC being negative, while d [Ce/Fe]/ d R GC is positive. [Ce/H] and [Ce/Fe] gradients are approximately constant over time, with the [Ce/Fe] gradient becoming slightly steeper, changing by ∼+0.009 dex kpc −1 Gyr −1 . Both the [Ce/H] and [Ce/Fe] gradients are shifted to lower values of [Ce/H] andmore »[Ce/Fe] for older open clusters. The chemical pattern of Ce in open clusters across the Galactic disk is discussed within the context of s-process yields from asymptotic giant branch (AGB) stars, gigayear time delays in Ce enrichment of the interstellar medium, and the strong dependence of Ce nucleosynthesis on the metallicity of its AGB stellar sources.« less
  2. We investigate the inner regions of the Milky Way using data from APOGEE and Gaia EDR3. Our inner Galactic sample has more than 26 500 stars within | X Gal |< 5 kpc, | Y Gal |< 3.5 kpc, | Z Gal |< 1 kpc, and we also carry out the analysis for a foreground-cleaned subsample of 8000 stars that is more representative of the bulge–bar populations. These samples allow us to build chemo-dynamical maps of the stellar populations with vastly improved detail. The inner Galaxy shows an apparent chemical bimodality in key abundance ratios [ α /Fe], [C/N], and [Mn/O], which probe different enrichment timescales, suggesting a star formation gap (quenching) between the high- and low- α populations. Using a joint analysis of the distributions of kinematics, metallicities, mean orbital radius, and chemical abundances, we can characterize the different populations coexisting in the innermost regions of the Galaxy for the first time. The chemo-kinematic data dissected on an eccentricity–| Z | max plane reveal the chemical and kinematic signatures of the bar, the thin inner disc, and an inner thick disc, and a broad metallicity population with large velocity dispersion indicative of a pressure-supported component. The interplay between thesemore »different populations is mapped onto the different metallicity distributions seen in the eccentricity–| Z | max diagram consistently with the mean orbital radius and V ϕ distributions. A clear metallicity gradient as a function of | Z | max is also found, which is consistent with the spatial overlapping of different populations. Additionally, we find and chemically and kinematically characterize a group of counter-rotating stars that could be the result of a gas-rich merger event or just the result of clumpy star formation during the earliest phases of the early disc that migrated into the bulge. Finally, based on 6D information, we assign stars a probability value of being on a bar orbit and find that most of the stars with large bar orbit probabilities come from the innermost 3 kpc, with a broad dispersion of metallicity. Even stars with a high probability of belonging to the bar show chemical bimodality in the [ α /Fe] versus [Fe/H] diagram. This suggests bar trapping to be an efficient mechanism, explaining why stars on bar orbits do not show a significant, distinct chemical abundance ratio signature.« less
  3. The Galactic center region, including the nuclear disk, has until recently been largely avoided in chemical census studies because of extreme extinction and stellar crowding. Large, near-IR spectroscopic surveys, such as the Apache Point Observatory Galactic Evolution Experiment (APOGEE), allow the measurement of metallicities in the inner region of our Galaxy. Making use of the latest APOGEE data release (DR16), we are able for the first time to study cool Asymptotic Giant branch (AGB) stars and supergiants in this region. The stellar parameters of five known AGB stars and one supergiant star (VR 5-7) show that their location is well above the tip of the red giant branch. We studied metallicities of 157 M giants situated within 150 pc of the Galactic center from observations obtained by the APOGEE survey with reliable stellar parameters from the APOGEE pipeline making use of the cool star grid down to 3200 K. Distances, interstellar extinction values, and radial velocities were checked to confirm that these stars are indeed situated in the Galactic center region. We detect a clear bimodal structure in the metallicity distribution function, with a dominant metal-rich peak of [Fe/H] ∼ +0.3 dex and a metal-poor peak around {Fe/H] = −0.5more »dex, which is 0.2 dex poorer than Baade’s Window. The α -elements Mg, Si, Ca, and O show a similar trend to the Galactic bulge. The metal-poor component is enhanced in the α -elements, suggesting that this population could be associated with the classical bulge and a fast formation scenario. We find a clear signature of a rotating nuclear stellar disk and a significant fraction of high-velocity stars with v gal  >  300 km s −1 ; the metal-rich stars show a much higher rotation velocity (∼200 km s −1 ) with respect to the metal-poor stars (∼140 km s −1 ). The chemical abundances as well as the metallicity distribution function suggest that the nuclear stellar disk and the nuclear star cluster show distinct chemical signatures and might be formed differently.« less
  4. ABSTRACT A search of the first Data Release of the VISTA Variables in the Via Lactea (VVV) Survey discovered the exceptionally red transient VVV-WIT-01 (H − Ks = 5.2). It peaked before March 2010, then faded by ∼9.5 mag over the following 2 yr. The 1.6–22 μm spectral energy distribution in March 2010 was well fit by a highly obscured blackbody with T ∼ 1000 K and $A_{K_s} \sim 6.6$ mag. The source is projected against the Infrared Dark Cloud (IRDC) SDC G331.062−0.294. The chance projection probability is small for any single event (p ≈ 0.01–0.02), which suggests a physical association, e.g. a collision between low mass protostars. However, blackbody emission at T ∼ 1000 K is common in classical novae (especially CO novae) at the infrared peak in the light curve due to condensation of dust ∼30–60 d after the explosion. Radio follow-up with the Australia Telescope Compact Array detected a fading continuum source with properties consistent with a classical nova but probably inconsistent with colliding protostars. Considering all VVV transients that could have been projected against a catalogued IRDC raises the probability of a chance association to p = 0.13–0.24. After weighing several options, it appears likely that VVV-WIT-01 was a classical nova event locatedmore »behind an IRDC.« less
  5. We provide homogeneous optical ( U B V R I ) and near-infrared (NIR, J H K ) time series photometry for 254 cluster ( ω Cen, M 4) and field RR Lyrae (RRL) variables. We ended up with more than 551 000 measurements, of which only 9% are literature data. For 94 fundamental (RRab) and 51 first overtones (RRc) we provide a complete optical/NIR characterization (mean magnitudes, luminosity amplitudes, epoch of the anchor point). The NIR light curves of these variables were adopted to provide new light-curve templates for both RRc and RRab variables. The templates for the J and the H bands are newly introduced, together with the use of the pulsation period to discriminate among the different RRab templates. To overcome subtle uncertainties in the fit of secondary features of the light curves we provide two independent sets of analytical functions (Fourier and periodic Gaussian series). The new templates were validated by using 26 ω Cen and Bulge RRLs. We find that the difference between the measured mean magnitude along the light curve and the mean magnitude estimated by using the template on a single randomly extracted phase point is better than 0.01 mag ( σ =more »0.04 mag). We also validated the template on variables for which at least three phase points were available, but without information on the phase of the anchor point. We find that the accuracy of the mean magnitudes is also ∼0.01 mag ( σ = 0.04 mag). The new templates were applied to the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) globular cluster Reticulum and by using literature data and predicted PLZ relations we find true distance moduli μ = 18.47 ± 0.10 (rand.) ± 0.03 (syst.) mag ( J ) and 18.49 ± 0.09 ± 0.05 mag ( K ). We also used literature optical and mid-infrared data and we found a mean μ of 18.47 ± 0.02 ± 0.06 mag, suggesting that Reticulum is ∼1 kpc closer than the LMC.« less

    The structure of the Small Magellanic Cloud (SMC) is very complex, in particular in the periphery that suffers more from the interactions with the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC). A wealth of observational evidence has been accumulated revealing tidal tails and bridges made up of gas, stars, and star clusters. Nevertheless, a full picture of the SMC outskirts is only recently starting to emerge with a 6D phase-space map plus age and metallicity using star clusters as tracers. In this work, we continue our analysis of another outer region of the SMC, the so-called West Halo, and combined it with the previously analysed Northern Bridge. We use both structures to define the Bridge and Counter-bridge trailing and leading tidal tails. These two structures are moving away from each other, roughly in the SMC–LMC direction. The West Halo form a ring around the SMC inner regions that goes up to the background of the Northern Bridge shaping an extended layer of the Counter-bridge. Four old Bridge clusters were identified at distances larger than 8 kpc from the SMC centre moving towards the LMC, which is consistent with the SMC–LMC closest distance of 7.5 kpc when the Magellanic Bridge was formed about 150Myr ago;more »this shows that the Magellanic Bridge was not formed only by pulled gas, but it also removed older stars from the SMC during its formation. We also found age and metallicity radial gradients using projected distances on sky, which are vanished when we use the real 3D distances.

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