First detections of FS CMa stars in clusters. Evolutionary state as constrained by coeval massive stars

D. de la Fuente(1), F. Najarro(1), C. Trombley(2), B. Davies(3), and D. F. Figer(2)

1 - Centro de Astrobiologia, CSIC/INTA (Madrid, Spain); 2 - Center for Detectors, Rochester Institute of Technology (NY, USA); 3 - Astrophysics Research Institute, Liverpool John Moores University (UK)

FS CMa stars are low-luminosity objects showing the B[e] phenomenon whose evolutionary state remains a puzzle. These stars are surrounded by compact disks of warm dust of unknown origin. Hitherto, membership of FS CMa stars to coeval populations has never been confirmed. The discovery of low-luminosity line emitters in the young massive clusters Mercer 20 and Mercer 70 prompts us to investigate the nature of such objects. We intend to confirm membership to coeval populations in order to characterize these emission-line stars through the cluster properties. Based on ISAAC/VLT medium-resolution spectroscopy and NICMOS/HST photometry of massive cluster members, new characterizations of Mercer 20 and Mercer 70 are performed. Coevality of each cluster and membership of the newly-discovered B[e] objects are investigated using our observations as well as literature data of the surroundings. Infrared excess and narrow-band photometric properties of the B[e] stars are also studied. We confirm and classify 22 new cluster members, including Wolf-Rayet stars and blue hypergiants. Spectral types (O9-B1.5 V) and radial velocities of B[e] objects are compatible with the remaining cluster members, while emission features of Mg II, Fe II], and [Fe II] are identified in their spectra. The ages of these stars are 4.5 and 6 Myr, and they show mild infrared excesses. We confirm the presence of FS CMa stars in the coeval populations of Mercer 20 and Mercer 70. We discuss the nature and evolutionary state of FS CMa stars, discarding a post-AGB nature and introducing a new hypothesis about mergers. A new search method for FS CMa candidates in young massive clusters based on narrow-band Paschen-alpha photometry is proposed and tested in photometric data of other clusters, yielding three new candidates.

Reference: Accepted for publication in A&A
Status: Manuscript has been accepted