Volume 553, May 2013
|Number of page(s)||14|
|Published online||17 May 2013|
1 Departamento de Astronomía y Astrofísica, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Av. Vicuña Mackenna 4860, Santiago, Chile
2 Institut für Astrophysik, Universität Wien, Türkenschanzstraße 17, 1180 Vienna, Austria
Received: 10 January 2013
Accepted: 18 March 2013
Context. Fossil galaxy groups are speculated to be old and highly evolved systems of galaxies that formed early in the universe and had enough time to deplete their L∗ galaxies through successive mergers of member galaxies, building up one massive central elliptical, but retaining the group X-ray halo.
Aims. Considering that fossils are the remnants of mergers in ordinary groups, the merger history of the progenitor group is expected to be imprinted in the fossil central galaxy (FCG). We present for the first time radial gradients of single-stellar population (SSP) ages and metallicites in a sample of FCGs to constrain their formation scenario. We also measure line-strength gradients for the strongest absorption features in these galaxies.
Methods. We took deep spectra with the long-slit spectrograph ISIS at the William Herschel Telescope (WHT) for six FCGs. The obtained spectra are fit with Pegase HR SSP models within the full-spectrum fitting package ULySS yielding SSP ages and metallicities of the stellar populations. We measure radial gradients of SSP ages and metallicities along the major axes. Lick indices are measured for the strongest absorption features to determine line-strength gradients and compare with the full-spectrum fitting results.
Results. Our sample comprises some of the most massive galaxies in the universe exhibiting an average central velocity dispersion of σ0 = 271 ± 28 km s-1. Metallicity gradients are throughout negative with comparatively flat slopes of ∇[Fe/H] = −0.19 ± 0.08 while age gradients are found to be insignificant (∇age = 0.00 ± 0.05). All FCGs lie on the fundamental plane, suggesting that they are virialised systems. We find that gradient strengths and central metallicities are similar to those found in cluster ellipticals of similar mass.
Conclusions. The comparatively flat metallicity gradients with respect to those predicted by monolithic collapse (∇Z = −0.5) suggest that fossils are indeed the result of multiple major mergers. Hence we conclude that fossils are not “failed groups” that formed with a top-heavy luminosity function. The low scatter of gradient slopes suggests a similar merging history for all galaxies in our sample.
Key words: galaxies: elliptical and lenticular, cD / galaxies: stellar content / galaxies: evolution
Figures 3 and 4 are available in electronic form at http://www.aanda.org
Reduced spectra are only available in electronic form at the CDS via anonymous ftp to cdsarc.u-strasbg.fr (22.214.171.124) or via http://cdsarc.u-strasbg.fr/viz-bin/qcat?J/A+A/553/A99
© ESO, 2013
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