Journal Article

Chemical evolution during gas-rich galaxy interactions

Josefa Perez, Leo Michel-Dansac and Patricia B. Tissera

in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

Published on behalf of The Royal Astronomical Society

Volume 417, issue 1, pages 580-590
Published in print October 2011 | ISSN: 0035-8711
Published online October 2011 | e-ISSN: 1365-2966 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2966.2011.19300.x
Chemical evolution during gas-rich galaxy interactions

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We perform and analyse a set of galaxy interactions performed by using a self-consistent chemo-hydrodynamical model which includes star formation, supernova (SN) feedback and chemical evolution. In agreement with previous works, we find that tidally induced low-metallicity gas inflows dilute the central oxygen abundance and contribute to the flattening of the metallicity gradients. The tidally induced inflows trigger starbursts which increase the impact of Type II supernova (SN II) feedback injecting new chemical elements and driving galactic winds which modulate the metallicity distribution. Although α-enhancement in the central regions is detected as a result of the induced starbursts in agreement with previous works, our simulations suggest that this parameter can only provide a timing of the first pericentre mainly for non-retrograde encounters. In order to reproduce wet major mergers at low and high redshifts, we have run simulations with respectively 20 and 50 per cent of the disc in the form of gas. We find that the more gas-rich encounters behave similarly to the less rich ones, between the first and second pericentre, where low-metallicity gas inflows are triggered. However, the higher strength of the inflows triggered in the more gas-rich interactions produces larger metal dilution factors, which are modulated afterwards by the new chemical production by SN. We find that the more gas-rich interaction develops violent and clumpy star formation triggered by local instabilities all over the disc before the first pericentre, so that if these galaxies were observed at these early stages where no important tidally induced inflows have been able to be developed yet, they would tend to show an excess of oxygen. We find a global mean correlation of both the central abundances and the gradients with the strength of the star formation activity. However, the correlations are affected by orbital parameters, gas inflows and outflows, suggesting that it might be difficult to determine it from observations. Overall, our findings show that a consistent description of the gas dynamics and stellar evolution along the interactions is necessary to assess their effects on the chemical properties of the interstellar medium.

Keywords: galaxies: abundances; galaxies: evolution; galaxies: formation; galaxies: interactions

Journal Article.  8354 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Astronomy and Astrophysics

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