The True Luminosities of Planetary Nebulae in M31's Bulge: Massive Central Stars from an Old Stellar Population

Brian D. Davis, Robin Ciardullo, George H. Jacoby, John J. Feldmeier, Briana L. Indahl

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21 Scopus citations


We measure the Balmer decrements of 23 of the brightest planetary nebulae (PNe) in the inner bulge (r ≲ 3′) of M31 and deredden the bright end of the region's [O iii] λ5007 PN luminosity function. We show that the most luminous PNe produce ≳1200 L o of power in their [O iii] λ5007 line, implying central star luminosities of at least ∼11,000 L o. Even with the most recent accelerated-evolution post-AGB models, such luminosities require central star masses in excess of 0.66 M o and main-sequence progenitors of at least ∼2.5 M o. Since M31's bulge has very few intermediate-age stars, we conclude that conventional single-star evolution cannot be responsible for these extremely luminous objects. We also present the circumstellar extinctions for the region's bright PNe and demonstrate that the distribution is similar to that found for PNe in the Large Magellanic Cloud, with a median value of A 5007 = 0.71. Finally, we compare our results to extinction measurements made for PNe in the E6 elliptical NGC 4697 and the interacting lenticular NGC 5128. We show that such extinctions are not unusual and that the existence of very high-mass PN central stars is a general feature of old stellar populations. Our results suggest that single-star population synthesis models significantly underestimate the maximum luminosities and total integrated light of AGB stars.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number189
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 20 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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