skip to main content

Title: The chemical properties of the Milky Way’s on-bar and off-bar regions: evidence for inhomogeneous star formation history in the bulge
ABSTRACT Numerous studies of integrated starlight, stellar counts, and kinematics have confirmed that the Milky Way is a barred galaxy. However, far fewer studies have investigated the bar’s stellar population properties, which carry valuable independent information regarding the bar’s formation history. Here, we conduct a detailed analysis of chemical abundance distributions ([Fe/H] and [Mg/Fe]) in the on-bar and off-bar regions to study the azimuthal variation of star formation history (SFH) in the inner Galaxy. We find that the on-bar and off-bar stars at Galactocentric radii 3 kpc < rGC < 5 kpc have remarkably consistent [Fe/H] and [Mg/Fe] distribution functions and [Mg/Fe]–[Fe/H] relation, suggesting a common SFH shared by the long bar and the disc. In contrast, the bar and disc at smaller radii (2 kpc < rGC < 3 kpc) show noticeable differences, with relatively more very metal-rich ($\rm [Fe/H] \sim 0.4$) stars but fewer solar abundance stars in the bar. Given the three-phase star formation history proposed for the inner Galaxy in Lian et al., these differences could be explained by the off-bar disc having experienced either a faster early quenching process or recent metal-poor gas accretion. Vertical variations of the abundance distributions at small rGC suggest a wider vertical distribution of low-α more » stars in the bar, which may serve as chemical evidence for vertical heating through the bar buckling process. The lack of such vertical variations outside the bulge may then suggest a lack of vertical heating in the long bar. « less
Authors:
; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ;
Award ID(s):
1801940
Publication Date:
NSF-PAR ID:
10311751
Journal Name:
Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Volume:
500
Issue:
1
ISSN:
0035-8711
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. We investigate the inner regions of the Milky Way using data from APOGEE and Gaia EDR3. Our inner Galactic sample has more than 26 500 stars within | X Gal |< 5 kpc, | Y Gal |< 3.5 kpc, | Z Gal |< 1 kpc, and we also carry out the analysis for a foreground-cleaned subsample of 8000 stars that is more representative of the bulge–bar populations. These samples allow us to build chemo-dynamical maps of the stellar populations with vastly improved detail. The inner Galaxy shows an apparent chemical bimodality in key abundance ratios [ α /Fe], [C/N], and [Mn/O], which probe different enrichment timescales, suggesting a star formation gap (quenching) between the high- and low- α populations. Using a joint analysis of the distributions of kinematics, metallicities, mean orbital radius, and chemical abundances, we can characterize the different populations coexisting in the innermost regions of the Galaxy for the first time. The chemo-kinematic data dissected on an eccentricity–| Z | max plane reveal the chemical and kinematic signatures of the bar, the thin inner disc, and an inner thick disc, and a broad metallicity population with large velocity dispersion indicative of a pressure-supported component. The interplay between thesemore »different populations is mapped onto the different metallicity distributions seen in the eccentricity–| Z | max diagram consistently with the mean orbital radius and V ϕ distributions. A clear metallicity gradient as a function of | Z | max is also found, which is consistent with the spatial overlapping of different populations. Additionally, we find and chemically and kinematically characterize a group of counter-rotating stars that could be the result of a gas-rich merger event or just the result of clumpy star formation during the earliest phases of the early disc that migrated into the bulge. Finally, based on 6D information, we assign stars a probability value of being on a bar orbit and find that most of the stars with large bar orbit probabilities come from the innermost 3 kpc, with a broad dispersion of metallicity. Even stars with a high probability of belonging to the bar show chemical bimodality in the [ α /Fe] versus [Fe/H] diagram. This suggests bar trapping to be an efficient mechanism, explaining why stars on bar orbits do not show a significant, distinct chemical abundance ratio signature.« less
  2. ABSTRACT

    We characterize the 3D spatial variations of [Fe/H], [Mg/H], and [Mg/Fe] in stars at the time of their formation, across 11 simulated Milky Way (MW)- and M31-mass galaxies in the FIRE-2 simulations, to inform initial conditions for chemical tagging. The overall scatter in [Fe/H] within a galaxy decreased with time until $\approx 7 \, \rm {Gyr}$ ago, after which it increased to today: this arises from a competition between a reduction of azimuthal scatter and a steepening of the radial gradient in abundance over time. The radial gradient is generally negative, and it steepened over time from an initially flat gradient $\gtrsim 12 \, \rm {Gyr}$ ago. The strength of the present-day abundance gradient does not correlate with when the disc ‘settled’; instead, it best correlates with the radial velocity dispersion within the galaxy. The strength of azimuthal variation is nearly independent of radius, and the 360 deg scatter decreased over time, from $\lesssim 0.17 \, \rm {dex}$ at $t_{\rm lb} = 11.6 \, \rm {Gyr}$ to $\sim 0.04 \, \rm {dex}$ at present-day. Consequently, stars at $t_{\rm lb} \gtrsim 8 \, \rm {Gyr}$ formed in a disc with primarily azimuthal scatter in abundances. All stars formed in amore »vertically homogeneous disc, Δ[Fe/H]$\le 0.02 \, \rm {dex}$ within $1 \, \rm {kpc}$ of the galactic mid-plane, with the exception of the young stars in the inner $\approx 4 \, \rm {kpc}$ at z ∼ 0. These results generally agree with our previous analysis of gas-phase elemental abundances, which reinforces the importance of cosmological disc evolution and azimuthal scatter in the context of stellar chemical tagging. We provide analytic fits to our results for use in chemical-tagging analyses.

    « less
  3. Abstract

    We present measurements of [Fe/H] and [α/Fe] for 128 individual red giant branch stars (RGB) in the stellar halo of M31, including its Giant Stellar Stream (GSS), obtained using spectral synthesis of low- and medium-resolution Keck/DEIMOS spectroscopy (and 6000, respectively). We observed four fields in M31's stellar halo (at projected radii of 9, 18, 23, and 31 kpc), as well as two fields in the GSS (at 33 kpc). In combination with existing literature measurements, we have increased the sample size of [Fe/H] and [α/Fe] measurements from 101 to a total of 229 individual M31 RGB stars. From this sample, we investigate the chemical abundance properties of M31's inner halo, findingand. Between 8 and 34 kpc, the inner halo has a steep [Fe/H] gradient (−0.025 ± 0.002 dex kpc−1) and negligible [α/Fe] gradient, where substructure in the inner halo is systematically more metal-rich than the smooth component of the halo at a given projected distance. Although the chemical abundances of the inner stellar halo are largely inconsistent with that of present-day dwarf spheroidal (dSph) satellite galaxies of M31, we identified 22 RGB stars kinematically associated with the smooth component of the stellar halomore »that have chemical abundance patterns similar to M31 dSphs. We discuss formation scenarios for M31's halo, concluding that these dSph-like stars may have been accreted from galaxies of similar stellar mass and star formation history, or of higher stellar mass and similar star formation efficiency.

    « less
  4. ABSTRACT We present photometric metallicity measurements for a sample of 2.6 million bulge red clump stars extracted from the Blanco DECam Bulge Survey (BDBS). Similar to previous studies, we find that the bulge exhibits a strong vertical metallicity gradient, and that at least two peaks in the metallicity distribution functions appear at b < −5°. We can discern a metal-poor ([Fe/H] ∼ −0.3) and metal-rich ([Fe/H] ∼ +0.2) abundance distribution that each show clear systematic trends with latitude, and may be best understood by changes in the bulge’s star formation/enrichment processes. Both groups exhibit asymmetric tails, and as a result we argue that the proximity of a star to either peak in [Fe/H] space is not necessarily an affirmation of group membership. The metal-poor peak shifts to lower [Fe/H] values at larger distances from the plane while the metal-rich tail truncates. Close to the plane, the metal-rich tail appears broader along the minor axis than in off-axis fields. We also posit that the bulge has two metal-poor populations – one that belongs to the metal-poor tail of the low latitude and predominantly metal-rich group, and another belonging to the metal-poor group that dominates in the outer bulge. We detect themore »X-shape structure in fields with |Z| > 0.7 kpc and for stars with [Fe/H] > −0.5. Stars with [Fe/H] < −0.5 may form a spheroidal or ‘thick bar’ distribution while those with [Fe/H] $\gtrsim$ −0.1 are strongly concentrated near the plane.« less
  5. ABSTRACT We develop a hybrid model of galactic chemical evolution that combines a multiring computation of chemical enrichment with a prescription for stellar migration and the vertical distribution of stellar populations informed by a cosmological hydrodynamic disc galaxy simulation. Our fiducial model adopts empirically motivated forms of the star formation law and star formation history, with a gradient in outflow mass loading tuned to reproduce the observed metallicity gradient. With this approach, the model reproduces many of the striking qualitative features of the Milky Way disc’s abundance structure: (i) the dependence of the [O/Fe]–[Fe/H] distribution on radius Rgal and mid-plane distance |z|; (ii) the changing shapes of the [O/H] and [Fe/H] distributions with Rgal and |z|; (iii) a broad distribution of [O/Fe] at sub-solar metallicity and changes in the [O/Fe] distribution with Rgal, |z|, and [Fe/H]; (iv) a tight correlation between [O/Fe] and stellar age for [O/Fe] > 0.1; (v) a population of young and intermediate-age α-enhanced stars caused by migration-induced variability in the Type Ia supernova rate; (vi) non-monotonic age–[O/H] and age–[Fe/H] relations, with large scatter and a median age of ∼4 Gyr near solar metallicity. Observationally motivated models with an enhanced star formation rate ∼2 Gyr ago improve agreement with the observed age–[Fe/H] and age–[O/H] relations, but worsen agreement with the observed age–[O/Fe]more »relation. None of our models predict an [O/Fe] distribution with the distinct bimodality seen in the observations, suggesting that more dramatic evolutionary pathways are required. All code and tables used for our models are publicly available through the Versatile Integrator for Chemical Evolution (VICE; https://pypi.org/project/vice).« less