MASSIV: Mass Assembly Survey with SINFONI in VVDS⋆
III. Evidence for positive metallicity gradients in z ~ 1.2 star-forming galaxies
1 Institut de Recherche en Astrophysique et Planétologie (IRAP), CNRS, 14 avenue Édouard Belin, 31400 Toulouse, France
2 IRAP, Université de Toulouse, UPS-OMP, Toulouse, France
3 ESO, Karl-Schwarzschild-Str.2, 85748 Garching b. München, Germany
4 Laboratoire d’Astrophysique de Marseille, Université de Provence, CNRS, 38 rue Frédéric Joliot-Curie, 13388 Marseille Cedex 13, France
5 IASF-INAF, via Bassini 15, 20133 Milano, Italy
6 INAF-Osservatorio Astronomico di Bologna, via Ranzani 1, 40127 Bologna, Italy
7 Instituto de Astrofísica de Andalucía – CSIC Apdo. 3004, 18080 Granada, Spain
Received: 16 July 2011
Accepted: 14 November 2011
Aims. The estimate of radial abundance gradients in high-redshift galaxies allows to constrain their star formation history and their interplay with the surrounding intergalactic medium.
Methods. We present VLT/SINFONI integral-field spectroscopy of a first sample of 50 galaxies at z ~ 1.2 in the MASSIV survey. Using the N2 ratio between the [N ii]6584 and Hα rest-frame optical emission lines as a proxy for oxygen abundance in the interstellar medium, we measured the metallicity of the sample galaxies. We developed a tool to extract spectra in annular regions, leading to a spatially resolved estimate of the oxygen abundance in each galaxy. We were able to derive a metallicity gradient for 26 galaxies in our sample and discovered a significant fraction of galaxies with a “positive” gradient. Using a simple chemical evolution model, we derived infall rates of pristine gas onto the disks.
Results. Seven galaxies display a positive gradient at a high confidence level. Four out of these are interacting, and one is a chain galaxy. We suggest that interactions might be responsible for shallowing and even inverting the abundance gradient. We also identify two interesting correlations in our sample: a) galaxies with higher gas velocity dispersion have shallower/positive gradients; and b) metal-poor galaxies tend to show a positive gradient, whereas metal-rich ones tend to show a negative one. This last observation can be explained by the infall of metal-poor gas into the center of the disks. We address the question of the origin of this infall under the influence of gas flows triggered by interactions and/or cold gas accretion. All the data published in this paper are publicly available at the time of publication following this link: http://cosmosdb.lambrate.inaf.it/VVDS-SINFONI.
Key words: galaxies: evolution / galaxies: abundances / galaxies: high-redshift
This work is based on observations collected at the European Southern Observatory (ESO) Very Large Telescope, Paranal, Chile, as part of the Programs 179.A-0823, 78.A-0177, and 75.A-0318. This work also benefits from data products produced at TERAPIX and the Canadian Astronomy Data Centre as part of the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope Legacy Survey, a collaborative project of NRC and the CNRS.
© ESO, 2012