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[C/N] in red giants and across the Milky Way

Dr. Matthew Shetrone
McDonald Observatory

February 5th, 2019


Despite being some of the most abundant elements in the  Universe the determination and understanding of the chemical evolution  of C and N is still very uncertain.  One of the main limitations in understanding chemical evolution of C and N is the fact that C and N are altered as during the first dredge-up on the red giant branch.   We present old red giants at various metallicities and luminosities in a sample that is more than 100 times larger than the seminal work of Gratton et al. 2000. Using this we can see the impact of the first dredge-up as well as the on set of "extra" mixing at the bump in the luminosity function for giants more metal-poor than [Fe/H] < -0.4. These observations can be used to constrain future models of mixing.    At a fixed metallicity younger stars have a stronger mixing response during dredge-up.   This fact allows up to infer ages from the first dredge-up [C/N] ratio.   We demonstrate that we are able to interpret the DR14 [C/N]-[Fe/H] abundance distributions as trends in age-[Fe/H] space. Our results show that an anti-correlation between age and metallicity, which is predicted by simple chemical evolution models, is not present at any Galactic zone. Stars far from the plane (|Z| > 1 kpc) exhibit a radial gradient in [C/N]. The [C/N] dispersion increases toward the plane.  We measure a disk metallicity gradient for the youngest stars from 6 kpc to 12 kpc, which is in agreement with the gradient found from other surveys.  Older stars exhibit a flatter gradient, which is predicted by simulations in which stars migrate from their birth radii. We also find that radial migration is a plausible explanation for the observed upturn of the [C/N]-[Fe/H] abundance trends in the outer Galaxy, where the metal-rich stars are relatively enhanced in [C/N].