Carbon stars, also known as C stars, have carbon/oxygen ratios that are typically four to five times higher than those of normal red giants and show little trace of the light metal oxide bands that are the usual red giant hallmark. They resemble S stars in their relative proportion of heavy and light metals, but contain far more carbon in their upper layers. The carbon is likely the dredged-up ashes of nuclear helium burning in the stellar interior. Carbon stars lose a significant fraction of their total mass in the form of a stellar wind which ultimately enriches the interstellar medium – the source of material for future generations of stars.
Carbon stars were previously classified as stars of spectral type R (hotter, with surface temperatures of 4,000 to 5,000 K) and N (up to 10 times more luminous but cooler, with a temperature of about 3,000 K). They are typically associated with some circumstellar material in the form of sooty shells, disks, or clouds. Examples include TT Cygni (shown in the accompanying image) and U Camelopardalis.
Related entries• CH star
• CN star
Related categories• TYPES OF STAR
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