An abundance study of red-giant-branch stars in the Hercules dwarf spheroidal galaxy
2 Department of Physics and Astronomy, Uppsala University, Box 515, 751 20 Uppsala, Sweden
3 Astronomisches Rechen-Institut, Zentrum für Astronomie der Universität Heidelberg, Mönchhofstr. 12-14, 69120 Heidelberg, Germany
4 Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Leicester, University Road, Leicester LE1 7RH, UK
Accepted: 24 October 2010
Context. Dwarf spheroidal galaxies are some of the most metal-poor, and least luminous objects known. Detailed elemental abundance analysis of stars in these faint objects is key to our understanding of star formation and chemical enrichment in the early universe, and may provide useful information on how larger galaxies form.
Aims. Our aim is to provide a determination of [Fe/H] and [Ca/H] for confirmed red-giant branch member stars of the Hercules dwarf spheroidal galaxy. Based on this we explore the ages of the prevailing stellar populations in Hercules, and the enrichment history from supernovae. Additionally, we aim to provide a new simple metallicity calibration for Strömgren photometry for metal-poor, red giant branch stars.
Methods. High-resolution, multi-fibre spectroscopy and Strömgren photometry are combined to provide as much information on the stars as possible. From this we derive abundances by solving the radiative transfer equations through marcs model atmospheres.
Results. We find that the red-giant branch stars of the Hercules dSph galaxy are more metal-poor than estimated in our previous study that was based on photometry alone. From this, we derive a new metallicity calibration for the Strömgren photometry. Additionally, we find an abundance trend such that [Ca/Fe] is higher for more metal-poor stars, and lower for more metal-rich stars, with a spread of about 0.8 dex. The [Ca/Fe] trend suggests an early rapid chemical enrichment through supernovae of type II, followed by a phase of slow star formation dominated by enrichment through supernovae of type Ia. A comparison with isochrones indicates that the red giants in Hercules are older than 10 Gyr.
Key words: galaxies: dwarf / galaxies: evolution / galaxies: individual: Hercules / stars: abundances
© ESO, 2010