skip to main content

Title: Evidence from Disrupted Halo Dwarfs that r-process Enrichment via Neutron Star Mergers is Delayed by ≳500 Myr
Abstract The astrophysical origins of r -process elements remain elusive. Neutron star mergers (NSMs) and special classes of core-collapse supernovae (rCCSNe) are leading candidates. Due to these channels’ distinct characteristic timescales (rCCSNe: prompt, NSMs: delayed), measuring r -process enrichment in galaxies of similar mass but differing star formation durations might prove informative. Two recently discovered disrupted dwarfs in the Milky Way’s stellar halo, Kraken and Gaia-Sausage Enceladus (GSE), afford precisely this opportunity: Both have M ⋆ ≈ 10 8 M ⊙ but differing star formation durations of ≈2 Gyr and ≈3.6 Gyr. Here we present R ≈ 50,000 Magellan/MIKE spectroscopy for 31 stars from these systems, detecting the r -process element Eu in all stars. Stars from both systems have similar [Mg/H] ≈ −1, but Kraken has a median [Eu/Mg] ≈ −0.1 while GSE has an elevated [Eu/Mg] ≈ 0.2. With simple models, we argue NSM enrichment must be delayed by 500–1000 Myr to produce this difference. rCCSNe must also contribute, especially at early epochs, otherwise stars formed during the delay period would be Eu free. In this picture, rCCSNe account for ≈50% of the Eu in Kraken, ≈25% in GSE, and ≈15% in dwarfs with extended star formation durations like Sagittarius. The inferred delay time for NSM enrichment is 10×–100× longer than merger delay times from stellar population synthesis—this is not necessarily surprising because the enrichment delay includes time taken for NSM ejecta to be incorporated into subsequent generations of stars. For example, this may be due to natal kicks that result in r -enriched material deposited far from star-forming gas, which then takes ≈10 8 –10 9 yr to cool in these galaxies.  more » « less
Award ID(s):
1812461 1927130
Author(s) / Creator(s):
; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ;
Date Published:
Journal Name:
The Astrophysical Journal Letters
Page Range / eLocation ID:
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this

    The exact evolution of elements in the Universe, from primordial to heavier elements produced via the r-process, is still under scrutiny. The supernova deaths of the very first stars led to the enrichment of their local environments, and can leave behind neutron stars (NSs) as remnants. These remnants can end up in binary systems with other NSs, and eventually merge, allowing for the r-process to occur. We study the scenario where a single NS merger (NSM) enriches a halo early in its evolution to understand the impact on the second generation of stars and their metal abundances. We perform a suite of high-resolution cosmological zoom-in simulations using enzo where we have implemented a new NSM model varying the explosion energy and the delay time. In general, an NSM leads to significant r-process enhancement in the second generation of stars in a galaxy with a stellar mass of ∼105 M⊙ at redshift 10. A high explosion energy leads to a Population II (Pop II) mass fraction of 72 per cent being highly enhanced with r-process elements, while a lower explosion energy leads to 80 per cent being enhanced, but only 14 per cent being highly enhanced. When the NSM has a short delay time of 10 Myr, only 5 per cent of the mass fraction of Pop II stars is highly enhanced, while 64 per cent is highly enhanced for the longest delay time of 100 Myr. This work represents a stepping stone towards understanding how NSMs impact their environments and the metal abundances of descendant generations of stars.

    more » « less
  2. Abstract

    We demonstrate that using up to seven stellar abundance ratios can place observational constraints on the star formation histories (SFHs) of Local Group dSphs, using Sculptor dSph as a test case. We use a one-zone chemical evolution model to fit the overall abundance patterns ofαelements (which probe the core-collapse supernovae that occur shortly after star formation),s-process elements (which probe AGB nucleosynthesis at intermediate delay times), and iron-peak elements (which probe delayed Type Ia supernovae). Our best-fit model indicates that Sculptor dSph has an ancient SFH, consistent with previous estimates from deep photometry. However, we derive a total star formation duration of ∼0.9 Gyr, which is shorter than photometrically derived SFHs. We explore the effect of various model assumptions on our measurement and find that modifications to these assumptions still produce relatively short SFHs of duration ≲1.4 Gyr. Our model is also able to compare sets of predicted nucleosynthetic yields for supernovae and AGB stars, and can provide insight into the nucleosynthesis of individual elements in Sculptor dSph. We find that observed [Mn/Fe] and [Ni/Fe] trends are most consistent with sub-MChType Ia supernova models, and that a combination of “prompt” (delay times similar to core-collapse supernovae) and “delayed” (minimum delay times ≳50 Myr)r-process events may be required to reproduce observed [Ba/Mg] and [Eu/Mg] trends.

    more » « less
  3. Abstract

    The ultra-faint dwarf galaxy Reticulum II (Ret II) exhibits a unique chemical evolution history, with7212+10% of its stars strongly enhanced inr-process elements. We present deep Hubble Space Telescope photometry of Ret II and analyze its star formation history. As in other ultra-faint dwarfs, the color–magnitude diagram is best fit by a model consisting of two bursts of star formation. If we assume that the bursts were instantaneous, then the older burst occurred around the epoch of reionization, forming ∼80% of the stars in the galaxy, while the remainder of the stars formed ∼3 Gyr later. When the bursts are allowed to have nonzero durations, we obtain slightly better fits. The best-fitting model in this case consists of two bursts beginning before reionization, with approximately half the stars formed in a short (100 Myr) burst and the other half in a more extended period lasting 2.6 Gyr. Considering the full set of viable star formation history models, we find that 28% of the stars formed within 500 ± 200 Myr of the onset of star formation. The combination of the star formation history and the prevalence ofr-process-enhanced stars demonstrates that ther-process elements in Ret II must have been synthesized early in its initial star-forming phase. We therefore constrain the delay time between the formation of the first stars in Ret II and ther-process nucleosynthesis to be less than 500 Myr. This measurement rules out anr-process source with a delay time of several Gyr or more, such as GW170817.

    more » « less

    We investigate stellar elemental abundance patterns at $z$ = 0 in eight low-mass ($M_{*}=10^{6}{-}10^{9}\ \text{M}_{\odot }$) galaxies in the Feedback in Realistic Environments cosmological simulations. Using magnesium (Mg) as a representative α-element, we explore stellar abundance patterns in magnesium-to-iron ([Mg/Fe]) versus iron-to-hydrogen ([Fe/H]), which follow an overall monotonic trend that evolved slowly over time. Additionally, we explore three notable secondary features in enrichment (in three different case-study galaxies) that arise from a galaxy merger or bursty star formation. First, we observe a secondary track with a lower [Mg/Fe] than the main trend. At $z$ = 0, stars from this track are predominantly found within 2–6 kpc of the centre; they were accreted in a 1:3 total-mass-ratio merger ∼0.4 Gyr ago. Second, we find a distinct elemental bimodality that forms following a strong burst in star formation in a galaxy at $t_{\text{lookback}}\, \sim 10$ Gyr. This burst quenched star formation for ∼0.66 Gyr, allowing Type Ia supernovae to enrich the system with iron (Fe) before star formation resumed. Third, we examine stripes in enrichment that run roughly orthogonal to the dominant [Mg/Fe] versus [Fe/H] trend; these stripes correspond to short bursts of star formation during which core-collapse supernovae enrich the surrounding medium with Mg (and Fe) on short time-scales. If observed, these features would substantiate the utility of elemental abundances in revealing the assembly and star-formation histories of dwarf galaxies. We explore the observability of these features for upcoming spectroscopic studies. Our results show that precise measurements of elemental abundance patterns can reveal critical events in the formation histories of low-mass galaxies.

    more » « less

    We model the stellar abundances and ages of two disrupted dwarf galaxies in the Milky Way stellar halo: Gaia-Sausage Enceladus (GSE) and Wukong/LMS-1. Using a statistically robust likelihood function, we fit one-zone models of galactic chemical evolution with exponential infall histories to both systems, deriving e-folding time-scales of τin = 1.01 ± 0.13 Gyr for GSE and $\tau _\text{in} = 3.08^{+3.19}_{-1.16}$ Gyr for Wukong/LMS-1. GSE formed stars for $\tau _\text{tot} = 5.40^{+0.32}_{-0.31}$ Gyr, sustaining star formation for ∼1.5–2 Gyr after its first infall into the Milky Way ∼10 Gyr ago. Our fit suggests that star formation lasted for $\tau _\text{tot} = 3.36^{+0.55}_{-0.47}$ Gyr in Wukong/LMS-1, though our sample does not contain any age measurements. The differences in evolutionary parameters between the two are qualitatively consistent with trends with stellar mass M⋆ predicted by simulations and semi-analytic models of galaxy formation. Our inferred values of the outflow mass-loading factor reasonably match $\eta \propto M_\star ^{-1/3}$ as predicted by galactic wind models. Our fitting method is based only on Poisson sampling from an evolutionary track and requires no binning of the data. We demonstrate its accuracy by testing against mock data, showing that it accurately recovers the input model across a broad range of sample sizes (20 ≤ N ≤ 2000) and measurement uncertainties (0.01 ≤ σ[α/Fe], σ[Fe/H] ≤ 0.5; $0.02 \le \sigma _{\log _{10}(\text{age})} \le 1$). Due to the generic nature of our derivation, this likelihood function should be applicable to one-zone models of any parametrization and easily extensible to other astrophysical models which predict tracks in some observed space.

    more » « less