Journal Article

The mass–metallicity relation in galaxy clusters: the relative importance of cluster membership versus local environment

Sara L. Ellison, Luc Simard, Nicolas B. Cowan, Ivan K. Baldry, David R. Patton and Alan W. McConnachie

in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

Published on behalf of The Royal Astronomical Society

Volume 396, issue 3, pages 1257-1272
Published in print July 2009 | ISSN: 0035-8711
Published online June 2009 | e-ISSN: 1365-2966 | DOI:
The mass–metallicity relation in galaxy clusters: the relative importance of cluster membership versus local environment

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Using a large (14 857), homogenously selected sample of cluster galaxies identified in the Sloan Digital Sky Survey Data Release 4, we investigate the impact of cluster membership and local density on the stellar mass–gas phase metallicity relation (MZR). We show that stellar metallicities are not suitable for this work, being relatively insensitive to subtle changes in the MZR. Accurate nebular abundances can be obtained for 1318 cluster galaxies in our sample and we show that these galaxies are drawn from clusters that are fully representative of the parent sample in terms of mass, size, velocity dispersion and richness. By comparing the MZR of the cluster galaxies with a sample of control galaxies matched in mass, redshift, fibre covering fraction and rest–frame gr colour cluster galaxies are found to have, on average, higher metallicities by up to 0.04 dex. The magnitude of this offset does not depend strongly on galactic half–light radius or cluster properties such as velocity dispersion or cluster mass. The effect of local density on the MZR is investigated, using the presence of a near neighbour and both two– and three–dimensional density estimators. For all three metrics, it is found that the cluster galaxies in locally rich environments have higher median metallicities by up to ∼0.05 dex than those in locally poor environments (or without a near neighbour). Control (non–cluster) galaxies at locally high densities exhibit similar metal enhancements. Taken together, these results show that galaxies in clusters are, on average, slightly more metal rich than the field, but that this effect is driven by local overdensity and not simply cluster membership.

Keywords: galaxies: abundances; galaxies: clusters: general; galaxies: ISM

Journal Article.  9920 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Astronomy and Astrophysics

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