Volume 539, March 2012
|Number of page(s)||18|
|Published online||01 March 2012|
The star formation and chemical evolution history of the sculptor dwarf spheroidal galaxy⋆
Kapteyn Astronomical Institute, University of Groningen,
2 Université de Nice Sophia-Antipolis, CNRS, Observatoire de la Côte d’Azur, Laboratoire Cassiopée, 06304 Nice Cedex 4, France
3 National Optical Astronomy Observatory, PO box 26732, Tucson, AZ 85726, USA
The National Optical Astronomy Observatory is operated by AURA, Inc., under cooperative agreement with the National Science Foundation.
4 Institute of Astronomy, University of Cambridge, Madingley Road, Cambridge, CB3 0HA, UK
5 INAF − Osservatorio Astronomico di Bologna via Ranzani 1, 40127 Bologna, Italy
Received: 2 November 2011
Accepted: 10 January 2012
We have combined deep photometry in the B, V and I bands from CTIO/MOSAIC of the Sculptor dwarf spheroidal galaxy, going down to the oldest main sequence turn-offs, with spectroscopic metallicity distributions of red giant branch stars. This allows us to obtain the most detailed and complete star formation history to date, as well as an accurate timescale for chemical enrichment. The star formation history shows that Sculptor is dominated by old (>10 Gyr), metal-poor stars, but that younger, more metal-rich populations are also present. Using star formation histories determined at different radii from the centre we show that Sculptor formed stars with an increasing central concentration with time. The old, metal-poor populations are present at all radii, while more metal-rich, younger stars are more centrally concentrated. We find that within an elliptical radius of 1 degree, or 1.5 kpc from the centre, a total mass in stars of 7.8 × 106 M⊙ was formed, between 14 and 7 Gyr ago, with a peak at 13−14 Gyr ago. We use the detailed star formation history to determine age estimates for individual red giant branch stars with high resolution spectroscopic abundances. Thus, for the first time, we can directly determine detailed timescales for the evolution of individual chemical elements. We find that the trends in alpha-elements match what is expected from an extended, relatively uninterrupted period of star formation continuing for 6−7 Gyr. The knee in the alpha-element distribution occurs at an age of 10.9 ± 1Gyr, suggesting that SNe Ia enrichment began ≈2 ± 1 Gyr after the start of star formation in Sculptor.
Key words: galaxies: dwarf / galaxies: evolution / galaxies: stellar content / Local Group / Hertzsprung-Russell and C-M diagrams
Appendix A is available in electronic form at http://www.aanda.org
© ESO, 2012
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