Absolute magnitudes are estimated for carbon stars of various subtypes in the Hipparcos catalogue and as found in the Magellanic Clouds. Stellar radii fall within the limits of 2.4–4.7 AU. The chemical composition of carbon stars indicates that the C-N stars show nearly solar C/H, N/H, and 12C/13C ratios. This indicates that much of the C and N in our Galaxy came from mass-losing carbon stars. Special carbon stars such as the C-R, C-H, and dC stars are described.

Mass loss from asymptotic giant branch carbon stars, at rates up to several × 10−5 year−1, contributes about half of the total mass return to the interstellar medium. R stars do not lose mass and may be carbon-rich red giants. The mass loss rates for Miras are about 10 times higher than for SRb and Lb stars, whose properties are similar enough to show that they are likely to belong to the same population. The distribution of carbon star mass loss rates peaks at about 10−7 year−1, close to the rate of growth of the core mass and demonstrative of the close relationship between mass loss and evolution. Infrared spectroscopy shows that dust mixtures can occur. Detached shells are seen around some stars; they appear to form on the time scales of the helium shell flashes and to be a normal occurrence in carbon star evolution.

Keyword(s): Magellanic CloudsMiras

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  • Article Type: Review Article
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