Four stellar populations and extreme helium variation in the massive outer-halo globular cluster NGC 2419


Recent work revealed that both the helium variation within globular clusters (GCs) and the relative numbers of first- and second-generation stars (1G, 2G) depend on the mass of the host cluster. Precise determination of the internal helium variations and of the fraction of 1G stars are crucial constraints to the formation scenarios of multiple populations (MPs). We exploit multiband Hubble Space Telescope photometry to investigate MPs in NGC 2419, which is one of the most-massive and distant GCs of the Galaxy, almost isolated from its tidal influence. We find that the 1G hosts the ∼37 per cent of the analysed stars, and identified three populations of 2G stars, namely 2GA, 2GB, and 2GC, which comprise the ∼20 per cent, ∼31 per cent, and ∼12 per cent of stars, respectively. We compare the observed colours of these four populations with the colours derived from appropriate synthetic spectra to infer the relative helium abundances. We find that 2GA, 2GB, and 2GC stars are enhanced in helium mass fraction by δY ∼ 0.01, 0.06, and 0.19 with respect to 1G stars that have primordial helium (Y = 0.246). The high He enrichment of 2GC stars is hardly reconcilable with most of the current scenarios for MPs. Furthermore, the relatively larger fraction of 1G stars (∼37 per cent) compared to other massive GCs is noticeable. By exploiting literature results, we find that the fractions of 1G stars of GCs with large perigalactic distance are typically higher than in the other GCs with similar masses. This suggests that NGC 2419, similarly to other distant GCs, lost a lower fraction of 1G stars.

Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society