In his 1975 paper, Circumstellar absorption lines and mass loss from red giants, Reimers gave a relation for mass loss from red giants via stellar winds as $$\dot{M}\propto\frac{L}{gR}$$ where $\dot{M}$ is mass loss, $L$ is luminosity, $g$ is the acceleration due to gravity at the surface of the star and $R$ is the radius of the star.

Reimers wrote that this was "the simplest quantity" based on the three parameters that had the units of g s-1.

Using observational data, Reimers was able to determine a coefficient, $\eta$ that created the law the bears his name. However, assuming I'm understanding the paper correctly, he seems to have chosen it as an approximation, just because it was simple and it worked.

Did Reimers have any theoretical evidence for believing that the law took the form it did, or was this assumption simply based on a conjecture?

  • $\begingroup$ Knee-jerk reaction: correct units, and "simple" relation, in the sense that it takes relatively few symbols to write it. Not bad arguments, if we believe that nature's laws have some sort of aesthetic simplicity, etc. $\endgroup$ – paul garrett Jul 19 '18 at 22:55

There is a very rich (and turbulent) history in trying to understand mass loss due to winds of red giants and supergiants.

I think this article answers your question quite thoroughly. https://arxiv.org/abs/astro-ph/0507598

Reimer's relation itself is of course physically motivated, as explained here in section 2.1 https://arxiv.org/abs/astro-ph/0512326 (it used to be thought that bulk motion through the chromosphere could spill over and cause mass loss). But as the first article explains, there are several deficiencies in Reimer's and subsequent formulations, from which better formulations have been developed since.


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