EDP Sciences
Free Access
Volume 465, Number 3, April III 2007
Page(s) 799 - 814
Section Galactic structure, stellar clusters, and populations
DOI https://doi.org/10.1051/0004-6361:20066036

A&A 465, 799-814 (2007)
DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361:20066036

Oxygen, sodium, magnesium, and aluminium as tracers of the galactic bulge formation

A. Lecureur1, V. Hill1, M. Zoccali2, B. Barbuy3, A. Gómez1, D. Minniti2, S. Ortolani4, and A. Renzini5

1  Observatoire de Paris-Meudon, GEPI and CNRS UMR 8111, 5 place J. Janssen, 92125 Meudon Cedex, France
    e-mail: [Aurelie.Lecureur;Vanessa.Hill;Ana.Gomez]@obspm.fr
2  P. Universidad Católica de Chile, Departamento de Astronomía y Astrofísica, Casilla 306, Santiago 22, Chile
    e-mail: [mzoccali;dante]@astro.puc.cl
3  Universidade de São Paulo, IAG, Rua do Matão 1226, São Paulo 05508-900, Brazil
    e-mail: barbuy@astro.iag.usp.br
4  Universidi Padova, Vicolo dell'Osservatorio 5, 35122 Padova, Italy
    e-mail: ortolani@pd.astro.it
5  Osservatorio Astronomico di Padova, Vicolo dell'Osservatorio 2, 35122 Padova, Italy
    e-mail: arenzini@pd.astro.it

(Received 13 July 2006 / Accepted 2 October 2006)

Aims.This paper investigates the peculiar behaviour of the light even (alpha-elements) and odd atomic number elements in red giants in the galactic bulge, both in terms of the chemical evolution of the bulge, and in terms of possible deep-mixing mechanisms in these evolved stars.
Methods.Abundances of the four light elements O, Na, Mg, and Al are measured in 13 core He-burning giant stars (red clump stars) and 40 red giant branch stars in four 25$\arcmin$ fields spanning the bulge from -3 to -12$^{\circ}$ galactic latitude. Special care was taken in the abundance analysis, performing a differential analysis with respect to the metal-rich solar-neighbourhood giant $\mu$Leo, which best resembles our bulge sample stars. This approach minimises systematic effects that can arise in the analysis of cool metal-rich stars due to continuum definition issues and blending by molecular lines (CN) and, cancels out possible model atmosphere deficiencies.
Results.We show that the resulting abundance patterns point towards a chemical enrichment dominated by massive stars at all metallicities. Oxygen, magnesium, and aluminium ratios with respect to iron are overabundant with respect to both galactic disks (thin and thick) for [Fe/H] > -0.5. A formation timescale for the galactic bulge shorter than for both the thin and thick disks is therefore inferred. To isolate the massive-star contribution to the abundances of O, Mg, Al, and Na, we use Mg as a proxy for metallicity (instead of Fe), and further show that: (i) the bulge stars [O/Mg] ratio follows and extends the decreasing trend of [O/Mg] found in the galactic disks to higher metallicities. This is a challenge for predictions of O and Mg yields in massive stars, which so far predicted no metallicity dependence in this ratio; (ii) the [Na/Mg] ratio trend with increasing [Mg/H] is found to increase in three distinct sequences in the thin disk, the thick disk, and the bulge. The bulge trend is well represented by the predicted metallicity-dependent yields of massive stars, whereas the galactic disks have Na/Mg ratios that are too high at low metallicities, pointing to an additional source of Na from AGB stars; (iii) contrary to the case of the [Na/Mg] ratio, there appears to be no systematic difference in the [Al/Mg] ratio between bulge and disk stars, and the theoretical yields by massive stars agree with the observed ratios, leaving no space for AGB contribution to Al.

Key words: Galaxy: bulge -- Galaxy: formation -- Galaxy: abundances -- stars: abundances -- stars: atmospheres

© ESO 2007

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