POPULATION PARAMETERS OF INTERMEDIATE-AGE STAR CLUSTERS IN THE LARGE MAGELLANIC CLOUD. I. NGC 1846 AND ITS WIDE MAIN-SEQUENCE TURNOFF
The Advanced Camera for Surveys on board the Hubble Space Telescope has been used to obtain deep, high-resolution images of the intermediate-age star cluster NGC 1846 in the Large Magellanic Cloud. We present new color-magnitude diagrams (CMDs) based on F435W, F555W, and F814W imaging. We test the previously observed broad main sequence turnoff region for "contamination" by field stars and (evolved) binary star systems. We find that while these impact the number of objects in this region, none
... this region, none can fully account for the large color spread. Our results therefore solidify the recent finding that stars in the main sequence turnoff region of this cluster have a large spread in color which is unrelated to measurement errors or contamination by field stars, and likely due to a ~300 Myr range in the ages of cluster stars. An unbiased estimate of the stellar density distribution across the main sequence turnoff region shows that the spread is fairly continuous rather than strongly bimodal as suggested previously. We fit the CMDs with several different sets of theoretical isochrones, and determine systematic uncertainties for population parameters when derived using any one set of isochrones. We note a degeneracy between age and [alpha/Fe], which can be lifted by matching the shape (curvature) of the full red giant branch in the CMD. We find that stars in the upper part of the main sequence turnoff region are more centrally concentrated than those in any other region of the CMD, including more massive red giant branch and asymptotic giant branch stars. We consider several possible formation scenarios which account for the unusual features observed in the CMD of NGC 1846.