, Volume 9, Issue 1-2, pp 33-61

Evolution of Population II stars

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The current knowledge of the evolution of Population II stars, as observed in galactic halos and globular clusters, is outlined. The recent theoretical results provided by an improved physical understanding of the stars are reported, with a particular emphasis upon those stellar evolutionary phases which are the keystones of the interpretation of globular cluster stars. Within the up–to–date theoretical scenario, the luminosity of the turn–off stars and horizontal branch stars, which are of fundamental importance for distance and age determinations, turns out to be fainter and brighter, respectively, in comparison with previous theoretical computations. The predicted absolute magnitude \(M_V^{RR}\) of RR Lyrae stars is consistent with the bright values suggested from the long distance scale (Sandage 1993), but the slope of the relation between \(M_V^{RR}\) and metallicity ([Fe/H]) agrees with that suggested from the short distance scale (see, e.g., Carney et al. 1992, Clementini et al. 1995), at least with [Fe/H] \(\le\) -1.3. As to the globular cluster ages, the new computations provide younger ages ( \(\sim\) 10 Gyr–13 Gyr), weakening the conflict with current cosmological estimates. The recent results derived from the fitting of HIPPARCOS parallaxes of field subdwarfs to the fiducial main sequence of globular clusters are consistent with the up–to–date theoretical models. However, the direct determinations of \(M_V^{RR}\) , which are based on the HIPPARCOS proper motions and trigonometric parallaxes of field RR Lyrae stars, give fainter absolute magnitudes than those obtained from the improved evolutionary models. This seems to suggest that the problem of the globular cluster distance and age is still open.

Received 6 April 1998