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Detecting weak beryllium lines with CUBES

Abstract

Beryllium is a light element with one single stable isotope, \(^9\)Be, which is a pure product of cosmic-ray spallation in the interstellar medium. Beryllium abundances in late-type stars can be used in studies about evolutionary mixing, Galactic chemical evolution, planet engulfment, and the formation of globular clusters. Some of these uses of Be abundances figure among the science cases of the Cassegrain U-Band Efficient Spectrograph (CUBES), a new near-UV low- and medium-resolution spectrograph under development for the Very Large Telescope. Here, we report on a study about beryllium abundances in extremely metal-poor stars in the context of the phase A of CUBES. Our motivation is to understand the limits for the detection of weak lines in extremely metal-poor stars of low Be abundances. We analyze simulated CUBES observations, performed in medium-resolution mode, based on synthetic spectra for four mock stars with [Fe/H] \(\le\) −3.0. We find that detecting the Be lines is possible in certain cases, but is very challenging and requires high signal-to-noise ratio. Depending on the atmospheric parameters of the target stars, and if signal-to-noise per pixel of about 400 can be achieved, it should be possible to detect Be abundances between \(\log\)(Be/H) −13.1 and −13.6, with a typical uncertainty of ± 0.15 dex. Using CUBES, the required data for such studies can be obtained for stars that are fainter by two magnitudes with respect to what is possible with current instrumentation.

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Data availability

The line list used to compute our synthetic spectra is available in Github, https://github.com/RGiribaldi/Master-line-list-for-spectral-synthesis-with-Turbospectrum. The other datasets generated during and/or analysed during the current study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.

Notes

  1. When referring to metallicity we mean the iron abundance, [Fe/H], which is the usual rough indicator of the total metal content of a star. Abundances in the bracket notation for two elements A and B, i.e. [A/B], mean the difference between the logarithm of the ratio of the abundances by number in a star and the logarithm of the same ratio in the Sun: [A/B] = \(\log\)[N(A)/N(B)]\(_{\star }\) - \(\log\)[N(A)/N(B)]\(_{\odot }\). The abundances by number are given in a scale where the number of hydrogen atoms is N(H) = 10\(^{12}\).

  2. Used within AstroConda, which is maintained by the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI). See https://astroconda.readthedocs.io/en/latest/index.html.

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Smiljanic, R., da Silva, A.R. & Giribaldi, R.E. Detecting weak beryllium lines with CUBES. Exp Astron (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10686-022-09845-w

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Keywords

  • Low-mass stars
  • Population II stars
  • Stellar abundances
  • Stellar spectral lines