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 »
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Award ID(s):
Publication Date:
NSF-PAR ID:
10311751
Journal Name:
Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Volume:
500
Issue:
1
ISSN:
0035-8711
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 »