Spitzer IRS Spectra of Luminous 8 μm Sources in the Large Magellanic Cloud: Testing Color-Based Classifications

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We present archival Spitzer Infrared Spectrograph (IRS) spectra of 19 luminous 8 mu m selected sources in the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC). The object classes derived from these spectra and from an additional 24 spectra in the literature are compared with classifications based on Two Micron All Sky Survey (2MASS)/MSX (J, H, K, and 8 mu m) colors in order to test the "JHK8" (Kastner et al.) classification scheme. The IRS spectra confirm the classifications of 22 of the 31 sources that can be classified under the JHK8 system. The spectroscopic classification of 12 objects that were unclassifiable in the JHK8 scheme allow us to characterize regions of the color-color diagrams that previously lacked spectroscopic verification, enabling refinements to the JHK8 classification system. The results of these new classifications are consistent with previous results concerning the identification of the most infrared-luminous objects in the LMC. In particular, while the IRS spectra reveal several new examples of asymptotic giant branch (AGB) stars with O-rich envelopes, such objects are still far outnumbered by carbon stars (C-rich AGB stars). We show that Spitzer IRAC/MIPS color-color diagrams provide improved discrimination between red supergiants and oxygen-rich and carbon-rich AGB stars relative to those based on 2MASS/MSX colors. These diagrams will enable the most luminous IR sources in Local Group galaxies to be classified with high confidence based on their Spitzer colors. Such characterizations of stellar populations will continue to be possible during Spitzer's warm mission through the use of IRAC [3.6]-[4.5] and 2MASS colors.