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Planetary nebulae as standard candles. I - Evolutionary models
Jacoby, George H.
AA(Kitt Peak National Observatory, Tucson, AZ)
Astrophysical Journal, Part 1 (ISSN 0004-637X), vol. 339, April 1, 1989, p. 39-52. (ApJ Homepage)
Publication Date:
NASA/STI Keywords:
Astronomical Models, Evolution (Development), Galaxies, Luminosity, Planetary Nebulae, Electron Energy, Emission Spectra, H Beta Line, Mass Distribution, Standards, Stellar Mass, Time Dependence
Bibliographic Code:


Models of PNs are used here to simulate observations of an ensemble of PNs in order to study luminosity distributions in the emission lines of H-beta and forbidden O III 5007 A. The resulting luminosity distributions agree very well with the observational data, thus supporting the use of the constancy of the shape of the forbidden O III luminosity distribution to derive distances to galaxies. The sharp bright-end cutoff seen in the data can be reproduced in the models only if the mass distribution of central stars is narrow and a substantial fraction of bright PN central stars are burning helium. It is concluded that either there are very few high-mass central stars or the true evolutionary track differs from those published. The sharp cutoff further suggests that the brightest PNs in a galaxy may be used with some confidence as a standard candle.

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