Dipartimento di Astronomia, Università di Padova, Vicolo Osservatorio 2, 35122 Padova, Italy e-mail: giovanni.carraro,email@example.com
2 ESO, Alonso de Cordova, 3107 Vitacura, Santiago de Chile, Chile e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
3 Universidad de Concepción, Departamento de Fisica, Casilla 160-C, Concepción, Chile e-mail: email@example.com
4 NSF Astronomy and Astrophysics Postdoctoral Fellow University of Wisconsin-Madison, Department of Astronomy, 475 N. Charter Street, Madison, WI 53706, USA e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
5 Department of Astronomy, University of Virginia, PO Box 400325, Charlottesville, VA 22903-4325, USA e-mail: email@example.com
Accepted: 10 September 2007
Context.The outer parts of the Milky Way disk are believed to be one of the main arenas where the accretion of external material in the form of dwarf galaxies and subsequent formation of streams is taking place. The Monoceros stream and the Canis Major and Argo over-densities are notorious examples. Understanding whether what we detect is the signature of accretion or, more conservatively, simply the intrinsic nature of the disk, represents one of the major goals of modern Galactic astronomy.
Aims.We try to shed more light on the properties of the outer disk by exploring the properties of distant anti-center old open clusters. We want to verify whether distant clusters follow the chemical and dynamical behavior of the solar vicinity disk, or whether their properties can be better explained in terms of an extra-galactic population.
Methods.VLT high resolution spectra have been acquired for five distant open clusters: Ruprecht 4, Ruprecht 7, Berkeley 25, Berkeley 73 and Berkeley 75. We derive accurate radial velocities to distinguish field interlopers and cluster members. For the latter we perform a detailed abundance analysis and derive the iron abundance [Fe/H] and the abundance ratios of several α elements.
Results.Our analysis confirms previous indications that the radial abundance gradient in the outer Galactic disk does not follow the expectations extrapolated from the solar vicinity, but exhibits a shallower slope. By combining the metallicity of the five program clusters with eight more clusters for which high resolution spectroscopy is available, we find that the mean metallicity in the outer disk between 12 and 21 kpc from the Galactic center is [Fe/H] ≈ -0.35, with only marginal indications for a radial variation. In addition, all the program clusters exhibit solar scaled or slightly enhanced α elements, similar to open clusters in the solar vicinity and thin disk stars.
Conclusions.We investigate whether this outer disk cluster sample might belong to an extra-galactic population, like the Monoceros ring. However, close scrutiny of their properties – location, kinematics and chemistry – does not convincingly favor this hypothesis. On the contrary, they appear more likely genuine Galactic disk clusters. We finally stress the importance to obtain proper motion measurements for these clusters to constrain their orbits.
Key words: open clusters and associations: general / stars: fundamental parameters / Galaxy: disk / Galaxy: evolution / Galaxy: structure
© ESO, 2007