Mon. Not. R. Astron. Soc., 448, 1863-1873 (2015/April-1)
The morphology of the sub-giant branch and red clump reveal no sign of age spreads in intermediate-age clusters.
BASTIAN N. and NIEDERHOFER F.
Abstract (from CDS):
A recent surprise in stellar cluster research, made possible through the precision of Hubble Space Telescope photometry, was that some intermediate-age (1-2 Gyr) clusters in the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds have main-sequence turn-off (MSTO) widths that are significantly broader than would be expected for a simple stellar population (SSP). One interpretation of these extended MSTOs (eMSTOs) is that age spreads of the order of ∼ 500 Myr exist within the clusters, radically redefining our view of stellar clusters, which are traditionally thought of as single-age, single-metallicity stellar populations. Here we test this interpretation by studying other regions of the CMD that should also be affected by such large age spreads, namely the width of the sub-giant branch (SGB) and the red clump (RC). We study two massive clusters in the LMC that display the eMSTO phenomenon (NGC 1806 and NGC 1846) and show that both have SGB and RC morphologies that are in conflict with expectations if large age spreads exist within the clusters. We conclude that the SGB and RC widths are inconsistent with extended star formation histories within these clusters, hence age spreads are not likely to be the cause of the eMSTO phenomenon. Our results are in agreement with recent studies that also have cast doubt on whether large age spreads can exist in massive clusters; namely the failure to find age spreads in young massive clusters, a lack of gas/dust detected within massive clusters, and homogeneous abundances within clusters that exhibit the eMSTO phenomenon.