Journal Article

Spectral gradients in central cluster galaxies: further evidence of star formation in cooling flows

N. Cardiel, J. Gorgas and A. Aragón-Salamanca

in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

Published on behalf of The Royal Astronomical Society

Volume 298, issue 4, pages 977-996
Published in print August 1998 | ISSN: 0035-8711
Published online August 1998 | e-ISSN: 1365-2966 | DOI:
Spectral gradients in central cluster galaxies: further evidence of star formation in cooling flows

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We have obtained radial gradients in the spectral features of the λ4000-Å break (D4000) and Mg2 for a sample of 11 central cluster galaxies (CCGs): eight in clusters with cooling flows and three in clusters without. After careful removal of the emission lines found within the D4000 and Mg2 bandpasses for some objects, the new data strongly confirm the correlations between line-strength indices and the cooling flow phenomenon found in our earlier study. We find that such correlations depend on the presence and characteristics of emission lines in the inner regions of the CCGs. The nuclear indices are correlated with the mass deposition rate (M.) only when emission lines are found in the central regions of the galaxies. The central D4000 and Mg2 indices in cooling flow galaxies without emission lines are completely consistent with the indices measured in CCGs in clusters without cooling flows. CCGs in cooling flow clusters exhibit a clear sequence in the D4000-Mg2 plane, with a neat segregation depending on emission-line type and blue morphology. This sequence can be modelled, using stellar population models with a normal initial mass function (IMF), by a recent (∼ 0.1 Gyr old) burst of star formation, although model uncertainties do not allow us to completely discard continuous star formation or a series of bursts over the last few Gyr. In CCGs with emission lines, the gradients in the spectral indices are flat or positive inside the emission-line regions, suggesting the presence of young stars. Outside the emission-line regions, and in cooling flow galaxies without emission lines, gradients are negative and consistent with those measured in CCGs in clusters without cooling flows and giant elliptical galaxies. Index gradients measured exclusively in the emission-line region correlate with M.. Using the same population models we have estimated the radial profiles of the mass transformed into new stars. The derived profiles are remarkably parallel to the expected radial behaviour of the mass deposition rate derived from X-ray observations. Moreover, a large fraction ( probably most ) of the cooling flow gas accreted into the emission-line region is converted into stars. In the light of these new data, we discuss the evolutionary sequence suggested by McNamara, in which radio-triggered star formation bursts take place several times during the lifetime of the cooling flow. We conclude that this scenario is consistent with the available observations.

Keywords: stars: formation; cooling flows; galaxies: elliptical and lenticular, cD; galaxies: starburst; galaxies: stellar content; X-rays: galaxies

Journal Article.  0 words. 

Subjects: Astronomy and Astrophysics

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