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A census of metals and baryons in stars in the local Universe

A. Gallazzi, J. Brinchmann, S. Charlot, S. D. M. White

We combine stellar metallicity and stellar mass estimates for a large sample of galaxies drawn from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey Data Release Two (SDSS DR2) spanning wide ranges in physical properties, in order to derive an inventory of the total mass of metals and baryons locked up in stars in the local Universe. Physical parameter estimates are derived from galaxy spectra with high signal-to-noise (S/N) ratio (of at least 20). Coadded spectra of galaxies with similar velocity dispersions, absolute r-band magnitudes and 4000°A-break values are used for those regions of parameter space where individual spectra have lower S/N.We estimate the total density of metals ρZ and of baryons ρ∗ in stars and, from these two quantities, we obtain a mass- and volume-averaged stellar metallicity of hZ∗i = 1.04±0.14 Z⊙, i.e. consistent with solar. We also study how metals are distributed in galaxies according to different properties, such as mass, morphology, mass- and light-weighted age, and we then compare these distributions with the corresponding distributions of stellar mass.We find that the bulk of metals locked up in stars in the local Universe reside in massive, bulge-dominated galaxies, with red colours and high 4000°A-break values corresponding to old stellar populations. Bulge-dominated and disc-dominated galaxies contribute similar amounts to the total stellar mass density, but have different fractional contributions to the mass density of metals in stars, in agreement with the mass-metallicity relation. Bulge- dominated galaxies contain roughly 40 percent of the total amount of metals in stars, while disc-dominated galaxies less than 25 percent. Finally, at a given galaxy stellar mass, we define two characteristic ages as the median of the distributions of mass and metals as a function of age. These characteristic ages decrease progressively from high-mass to low-mass galaxies, consistent with the high formation epochs of stars in massive galaxies.

Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Volume 383, Page 1439
2008 February

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Instituto de Astrofísica e Ciências do Espaço Universidade do Porto Faculdade de Ciências da Universidade de Lisboa Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia
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