A spectrophotometric model applied to cluster galaxies: the WINGS dataset
INAF – Osservatorio Astronomico di Padova, vicolo Osservatorio 5, 35122 Padova, Italy e-mail: email@example.com
2 Dipartimento di Astronomia, vicolo Osservatorio 2, 35122 Padova, Italy
3 School of Physics, University of New South Wales, Sydney 2052, Australia
4 Observatories of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, Pasadena, CA 91101, USA
5 Copenhagen University Observatory, The Niels Bohr Insitute for Astronomy Physics and Geophysics, Juliane Maries Vej 30, 2100 Copenhagen, Denmark
6 Instituto de Astrofísica de Andalucía (C.S.I.C.), Apartado 3004, 18080 Granada, Spain
Accepted: 7 May 2007
Context.The WIde-field Nearby Galaxy-cluster Survey (wings) is a project aiming at the study of the galaxy populations in clusters in the local universe () and the influence of environment on the physical properties of galaxies. This survey provides a high quality set of spectroscopic data for ∼6000 galaxies in 48 clusters. The study of such a large amount of objects requires automatic tools capable of extracting as much information as possible from the data.
Aims.In this paper we describe a stellar population synthesis technique that reproduces the observed optical spectra of galaxies performing an analysis based on spectral fitting of the stellar content, extinction and, when possible, metallicity.
Methods.A salient feature of this model is the possibility of treating dust extinction as a function of age, allowing younger stars to be more obscured than older ones. Our technique, for the first time, takes into account this feature in a spectral fitting code. A set of template spectra spanning a wide range of star formation histories is built, with features closely resembling those of typical spectra in our sample in terms of spectral resolution, noise and wavelength coverage. Our method of analyzing these spectra allows us to test the reliability and the uncertainties related to each physical parameter we are inferring. The well-known degeneracy problem, i.e. the non-uniqueness of the best fit solution (mass and extinction in different age bins), can be addressed by assigning adequate error bars to the recovered parameters. The values found in this way, together with their error bars, identify the region of parameter space which contains all the possible solutions for a given spectrum. A comparison test was also performed on a wings subsample, containing objects in common with the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, yielding excellent agreement.
Results.We find that the stellar content as a function of age is reliably recovered in four main age bins and that the uncertainties only mildly depend on the S/N ratio. The metallicity of the dominant stellar population is not always recoverable unambiguosly, depending on the Star Formation History pattern.
Key words: methods: data analysis / galaxies: evolution / galaxies: statistics / galaxies: stellar content
© ESO, 2007