Thermohaline mixing and its role in the evolution of carbon and nitrogen abundances in globular cluster red giants: The test case of messier 3

George Angelou, Ross Church, Richard Stancliffe, John Lattanzio, Graeme Smith

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We review the observational evidence for extra mixing in stars on the red giant branch (RGB) and discuss why thermohaline mixing is a strong candidate mechanism. We recall the simple phenomenological description of thermohaline mixing and aspects of mixing in stars in general. We use observations of M3 to constrain the form of the thermohaline diffusion coefficient and any associated free parameters. This is done by matching [C/Fe] and [N/Fe] along the RGB of M3. After taking into account a presumed initial primordial bimodality of [C/Fe] in the CN-weak and CN-strong stars, our thermohaline mixing models can explain the full spread of [C/Fe]. Thermohaline mixing can produce a significant change in [N/Fe] as a function of absolute magnitude on the RGB for initially CN-weak stars, but not for initially CN-strong stars, which have so much nitrogen to begin with that any extra mixing does not significantly affect the surface nitrogen composition
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1 - 12
Number of pages12
JournalThe Astrophysical Journal Letters
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2011

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