Variable stars in Leo A: RR Lyrae stars, short-period Cepheids, and implications for stellar content

Andrew E. Dolphin, A. Saha, Jennifer Claver, Evan D. Skillman, A. A. Cole, J. S. Gallagher, Eline Tolstoy, R. C. Dohm-Palmer, Mario Mateo

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We present the results of a search for short-period variable stars in Leo A. We have found 92 candidate variables, including eight candidate RR Lyrae stars. From the RR Lyrae stars, we measure a distance modulus of (m - M) 0 = 24.51 ± 0.12, or 0.80 ± 0.04 Mpc. This discovery of RR Lyrae stars confirms for the first time the presence of an ancient (older than ∼11 Gyr) population in Leo A, accounting for at least 0.1% of the galaxy's V luminosity. We have also discovered a halo of old (more than ∼2 Gyr) stars surrounding Leo A, with a scale length roughly 50% larger than that of the dominant young population. We also report the discovery of a large population of Cepheids in Leo A. The median absolute magnitude of our Cepheid sample is MV = -1.1, fainter than 96% of SMC and 99% of LMC Cepheids. Their periods are also unusual, with three Cepheids that are deduced to be pulsating in the fundamental mode having periods of under 1 day. Upon examination, these characteristics of the Leo A Cepheid population appear to be a natural extension of the classical Cepheid period-luminosity relations to low metallicity, rather than being indicative of a large population of "anomalous" Cepheids. We demonstrate that the periods and luminosities are consistent with the expected values of low-metallicity blue helium-burning stars (BHeB's), which populate the instability strip at lower luminosities than do higher metallicity BHeB's.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3154-3198
Number of pages45
JournalAstronomical Journal
Issue number6 1758
StatePublished - Jun 2002


  • Cepheids
  • Galaxies: individual (Leo A)
  • Local Group


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