Vol 23, No 1

The Significance of Thermally Pulsing Asymptotic Giant Branch Stars in Post-starburst Galaxies

Siqi Liu and A-Li Luo


We measure the significance of thermally pulsing asymptotic giant branch (TP-AGB) stars via the spectral energy distributions (SEDs) of a sample of post-starburst (PSB) galaxies at z = 0.2–0.7. Using ground- and space-based photometry from the 3D-HST catalog, as well as associated near-infrared (NIR) Hubble Space Telescope (HST) slitless grism spectroscopy, we evaluate the importance of TP-AGB stars in the SEDs of 177 PSB galaxies by fitting simple stellar populations with different levels of TP-AGB contributions. The grism spectra, despite their low resolution of R ∼ 100, enable the detection of molecular features specific to TP-AGB stars and thus improve constraints on their contribution. A majority (∼70%) of galaxies in the PSB sample show features indicative of TP-AGB stars, while the remainder does not and they are well fit by Bruzual & Charlot TP-AGB light models. Stacked spectra of sources classified to be the best fit by TP-AGB heavy/mild models reveal strong detections of NIR molecular features associated with TP-AGB stars. Additionally, we observe a tentative trend with redshift where more TP-AGB heavy galaxies are observed in the higher redshift PSB galaxy population. Finally, neglecting the contribution of TP-AGB stars can yield an over-prediction of stellar masses measured in the K-band ranging from 0.13–0.23 dex.


Key words: stars: AGB and post-AGB – galaxies: stellar content – galaxies: peculiar

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