We present wide-field and high-precision BV and Ca and Strömgren by photometry of ω Centauri, which represents one of the most extensive photometric surveys to date for this cluster. The member stars of ω Cen are well discriminated from foreground Galactic field stars in the hk[=(Ca-b)-(b-y)] versus b-y diagram. The resulting "cleaned" color-magnitude diagram (CMD) has allowed us to obtain an accurate distribution of the red horizontal-branch (HB) and the asymptotic giant branch stars. We confirm the presence of several red giant branches (RGBs), with the most metal-rich sequence well separated from other bluer metal-poor ones. Our population models suggest that four populations with different metallicities can reproduce the observed nature of the RGB. The HB distribution is also found to be consistent with the multiple stellar populations of the RGB. From our population models, we propose that the most metal-rich population is about 4 Gyr younger than the dominant metal-poor population, indicating that ω Cen was enriched over this timescale. We identify, for the first time, a continuous and slanting RGB bump in the CMD of ω Cen, which is due to the metallicity spread among the RGB stars. Our photometry also reveals a significant population of blue straggler stars. The discovery of several populations and the internal age-metallicity relation of ω Cen provides good evidence that ω Cen was once part of a more massive system that merged with the Milky Way, as the Sagittarius dwarf galaxy is in the process of doing at the present time.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Astronomy and Astrophysics
- Space and Planetary Science