Volume 530, June 2011
|Number of page(s)||23|
|Published online||03 May 2011|
Silicon depletion in damped Ly α systems
Osservatorio Astronomico di Trieste, Istituto Nazionale di Astrofisica, via G.B. Tiepolo 11, Trieste, Italy
2 Dipartimento di Fisica, Sezione di Astronomia, Università di Trieste, via G.B. Tiepolo 11, Trieste, Italy
3 Astronomical Institute Utrecht, Buys Ballot Lab, 3508 TA Utrecht, The Netherlands
4 Shanghai Astronomical Observatory, 80 Nandan Road, Shanghai 200030, PR China
Received: 15 December 2010
Accepted: 11 March 2011
Silicates are an important component of interstellar dust that has been poorly investigated in high redshift galaxies. As a preliminary step to studying silicates at high redshift, we survey silicon depletions in damped Ly α (DLA) systems. Silicon depletion is mild in the Galactic interstellar medium (ISM) and is expected to be weaker in most DLA systems, so we introduce a method for improving the accuracy of DLA depletion measurements. We compare abundance ratios measured in the gas with calculations of total abundance ratios of gas and dust predicted by models of galactic chemical evolution tailored for DLA systems. To tune the model parameters, we use the dust-free observational diagram S/Zn versus Zn/H, and we also compare the look back time estimated from the absorption redshift with the evolutionary time predicted by the model. By applying our method to a large set of DLA column densities, we succeeded in measuring the depletion of silicon in 74 systems. For comparison, we also measure iron and magnesium depletions (105 and 10 systems, respectively) with the same method. The mean depletion of silicon that we derive, ⟨ δSi ⟩ ≃ −0.27 ± 0.16 dex, is surprisingly close to that of iron, ⟨ δFe ⟩ ≃ −0.42 ± 0.28 dex, despite iron being much more depleted than silicon in the Galactic ISM. Silicon depletion in DLA systems does not correlate with metallicity, at variance with iron depletion, for which we confirm a rise with [Fe/H] found in previous work. Magnesium depletion seems to behave more in accordance with silicon than with iron. The different behaviors of the silicon and iron depletions suggests a complex history of dust production at the early stages of galactic chemical evolution.
Key words: ISM: abundances / dust, extinction / galaxies: high-redshift / quasars: absorption lines / methods: miscellaneous / instrumentation: spectrographs
© ESO, 2011
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