1 Dpto. de Física Teórica y del Cosmos, Campus de Fuentenueva, Universidad de Granada, 18071 Granada, Spain
2 Instituto Carlos I de Física Teórica y Computacional, 18071 Granada, Spain
3 Instituto de Astrofísica de Andalucía, CSIC, Apartado 3004, 18080 Granada, Spain
4 Instituto de Astronomia, Geofísica e Ciências Atmosféricas. Universidade de São Paulo, R. do Matão, 1226, 05508-090 São Paulo, SP, Brazil
5 European Southern Observatory, 19001 Casilla, Santiago 19, Chile
Received: 26 March 2015
Accepted: 9 July 2015
Context. Bar-induced gas inflows towards galaxy centres are recognised as a key agent for the secular evolution of galaxies. One immediate consequence of this inflow is the accumulation of gas in the centre of galaxies where it can form stars and alter the chemical and physical properties.
Aims. Our aim is to study whether the properties of the ionised gas in the central parts of barred galaxies are altered by the presence of a bar and whether the change in central properties is related to bar and/or parent galaxy properties.
Methods. We use a sample of nearby face-on disc galaxies with available SDSS spectra, morphological decomposition, and information on the stellar population of their bulges, to measure the internal Balmer extinction from the Hα to Hβ line ratio, star formation rate, and relevant line ratios to diagnose chemical abundances and gas density.
Results. The distributions of all the parameters analysed (internal Balmer extinction at Hβ (c(Hβ)), star formation rate per unit area, electron density, [N ii]λ6583/Hα emission-line ratio, ionisation parameter, and nitrogen-to-oxygen (N/O) abundance ratio) are different for barred and unbarred galaxies, except for the R23 metallicity tracer and the oxygen abundance obtained from photoionisation models. The median values of the distributions of these parameters point towards (marginally) larger dust content, star formation rate per unit area, electron density, and ionisation parameter in the centres of barred galaxies than in their unbarred counterparts. The most remarkable difference between barred and unbarred galaxies appears in the [N ii]λ6583/Hα line ratio that is, on average, ~25% higher in barred galaxies, due to an increased N/O abundance ratio in the centres of these galaxies compared to the unbarred ones. We analyse these differences as a function of galaxy morphological type (as traced by bulge-to-disc light ratios and bulge mass), total stellar mass, and bulge Sérsic index. We observe an enhancement of the differences between central gas properties in barred and unbarred galaxies in later-type galaxies or galaxies with less massive bulges. However, the bar seems to have a lower impact on the central gas properties for galaxies with bulges above ~1010 M⊙ or total mass M⋆ ≳ 1010.8 M⊙.
Conclusions. We find observational evidence that the presence of a galactic bar affects the properties of the ionised gas in the central parts of disc galaxies (radii ≲0.6–2.1 kpc). The most striking effect is an enhancement in the N/O abundance ratio. This can be interpreted qualitatively in terms of our current knowledge of bar formation and evolution, and of chemical evolution models, as being the result of a different star formation history in the centres of barred galaxies caused by the gas inflow induced by the bar. Our results lend support to the scenario in which less massive and more massive bulges have different origins or evolutionary processes, with the gaseous phase of the former currently having a closer relation to the bars.
Key words: galaxies: evolution / galaxies: abundances / galaxies: bulges / galaxies: spiral / galaxies: structure / galaxies: ISM
Appendix A is available in electronic form at http://www.aanda.org
Extinction-corrected line fluxes are only available at the CDS via anonymous ftp to cdsarc.u-strasbg.fr (18.104.22.168) or via http://cdsarc.u-strasbg.fr/viz-bin/qcat?J/A+A/584/A88
© ESO, 2015