Precision age indicators that exploit chemically peculiar stars
Washington State University, 1245 Webster Hall, Pullman, WA 99164-2814, USA
Received: 22 May 2015
Accepted: 13 July 2015
Context. The integrated light of distant star clusters and galaxies can yield information on the stellar formation epochs, chemical abundance mixtures, and initial stellar mass functions, and therefore improve our understanding of galaxy evolution.
Aims. We would like to find a way to improve the determination of galaxy star formation history from integrated light spectroscopy.
Methods. Several classes of chemically peculiar (CP) stars arise during the course of normal evolution in single stars and noninteracting binary stars. An aging stellar population has periods of time in which CP stars contribute to the integrated light, and others in which the contributions fade. The HgMn stars, for example, occupy a narrow temperature range of 10 500 to 16 000 K, which maps to a narrow range of ages. Wolf-Rayet stars, He-poor stars, Bp-Ap stars, Am-Fm stars, and C stars all become very common in a normal stellar population at various ages between zero and several Gyr, fading in and out in a way that is analogous to features used in stellar spectral classification. We examine population fractions and light fractions in order to assess the feasibility of using CP stars as age tracers.
Results. Even though CP stars do not usually dominate in number, there are enough of them so that the CP spectral features are detectable in high-quality integrated spectra of young and intermediate age stellar populations. The new technique should be calibratable and useful. Furthermore, using CP signatures as age dating tools sidesteps reliance on photometry that is susceptible to dust and Balmer features that are susceptible to nebular fill-in.
Key words: stars: chemically peculiar / stars: evolution / galaxies: stellar content / galaxies: starburst / galaxies: evolution
© ESO, 2015