Volume 588, April 2016
|Number of page(s)||15|
|Published online||23 March 2016|
Metallicity gradients in local Universe galaxies: Time evolution and effects of radial migration
INAF–Osservatorio Astrofisico di Arcetri, Largo E. Fermi, 5
2 ESO Karl-Schwarzchild str., 2, 85748 Garching b. Munchen, Germany
3 National Optical Astronomy Observatory, 950 N. Cherry Avenue, Tucson, AZ 85719, USA
Received: 20 November 2015
Accepted: 7 February 2016
Context. Our knowledge of the shape of radial metallicity gradients in disc galaxies has recently improved. Conversely, the understanding of their time evolution is more complex, since it requires analysis of stellar populations with different ages or systematic studies of galaxies at different redshifts. In the local Universe, H ii regions and planetary nebulae (PNe) are important tools to investigate radial metallicity gradients in disc galaxies.
Aims. We present an in-depth study of all nearby spiral galaxies (M33, M31, NGC 300, and M81) with direct-method nebular abundances of both populations, aiming at studying the evolution of their radial metallicity gradients. For the first time, we also evaluate the radial migration of PN populations.
Methods. For the selected galaxies, we analysed H ii region and PN properties to: determine whether oxygen in PNe is a reliable tracer for past interstellar medium (ISM) composition; homogenise published datasets; estimate the migration of the oldest stellar populations; and determine the overall chemical enrichment and slope evolution.
Results. We confirm that oxygen in PNe is a reliable tracer for past ISM metallicity. We find that PN gradients are flatter than or equal to those of H ii regions. When radial motions are negligible, this result provides a direct measurement of the time evolution of the gradient. For galaxies with dominant radial motions, we provide upper limits on the gradient evolution. Finally, the total metal content increases with time in all target galaxies, and early morphological types have a larger increment Δ(O/H) than late-type galaxies.
Conclusions. Our findings provide important constraints to discriminate among different galactic evolutionary scenarios, favouring cosmological models with enhanced feedback from supernovae. The advent of extremely large telescopes allows us to include galaxies in a wider range of morphologies and environments, thus putting firmer constraints on galaxy formation and evolution scenarios.
Key words: ISM: abundances / Hii regions / planetary nebulae: general / galaxies: abundances / galaxies: evolution / Local Group
© ESO, 2016
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