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The star formation history and metal content of the “Green Peas”. New detailed GTC-OSIRIS spectrophotometry of three galaxies

R. O. Amorín Barbieri, E. Pérez-Montero, J. M. Vílchez, P. Papaderos

We present deep broad-band imaging and long-slit spectroscopy of three compact, low-mass starburst galaxies at redshift z ∼0.2–0.3, also referred to as Green Peas (GP). We measure physical properties of the ionized gas and derive abundances for several species with high precision. We find that the three GPs display relatively low extinction, low oxygen abundances, and remarkably high N/O ratios We also report on the detection of clear signatures of Wolf-Rayet (WR) stars in these galaxies. We carry out a pilot spectral synthesis study using a combination of both population and evolutionary synthesis models. Their outputs are in qualitative agreement, strongly suggesting a formation history dominated by starbursts. In agreement with the presence of WR stars, these models show that these GPs currently undergo a major starburst producing between ∼4% and ∼20% of their stellar mass. However, as models imply, they are old galaxies having had formed most of their stellar mass several Gyr ago. The presence of old stars has been spectroscopically verified in one of the galaxies by the detection of MgIλλ5167, 5173 absorption line. Additionally, we perform a surface photometry study based on HST data, that indicates that the three galaxies posses an exponential low-surface brightness envelope. If due to stellar emission, the latter is structurally compatible to the evolved hosts of luminous BCD/HII galaxies, suggesting that GPs are identifiable with major episodes in the assembly history of local BCDs. These conclusions highlight the importance of these objects as laboratories for studying galaxy evolution at late cosmic epochs.

galaxies: abundances - galaxies: dwarf - galaxies: evolution - galaxies: starburst

The Astrophysical Journal
Volume 749, Number 2, Page 185
2012 April

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Faculdade de Ciências da Universidade de Lisboa Universidade do Porto Faculdade de Ciências e Tecnologia da Universidade de Coimbra
Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia COMPETE 2020 PORTUGAL 2020 União Europeia