Status Report

The Progenitors of Dwarf Spheroidal Galaxies

By SpaceRef Editor
January 6, 2003
Filed under , ,

Astrophysics, abstract

From: Eva K. Grebel <[email protected]>
Date: Thu, 2 Jan 2003 21:00:58 GMT (78kb)

The Progenitors of Dwarf Spheroidal Galaxies

Eva K. Grebel (MPIA, Heidelberg),
John S. Gallagher (U. Wisconsin),
Daniel Harbeck (MPIA, Heidelberg)

Comments: 25 pages in AASTeX two-column preprint style, 1 table, 3 figures.
Accepted for publication in the Astronomical Journal (April 2003 issue)

Dwarf spheroidal (dSph) galaxies present an evolutionary puzzle that we
explore in 40 early- and late-type dwarfs in the Local Group and nearby field.
Although dSphs formed stars over extended periods, today all but one are free
of detectable interstellar matter (ISM), even in the Fornax dSph, where stars
still formed 100 Myr ago. Combining metallicities for red giants with HI data
from the literature, we show that the well-known offset in
luminosity-metallicity (L-Z) relations for dSphs and dwarf irregular (dIrr)
galaxies exists also when comparing only their old stellar populations: dSphs
have higher mean stellar metallicities for a fixed luminosity. Evidently
younger dSphs experienced more efficient enrichment than young dIrrs. Dwarf
galaxies, whose locus in the L-Z diagram is consistent with that of dSphs even
for baryonic luminosities, are the “transition-type dwarfs” Phoenix, DDO210,
LGS3, Antlia, and KKR25. They have mixed dIrr/dSph morphologies, low stellar
masses, low angular momentum, and HI contents of less than a few 10^6 solar
masses. Unlike dIrrs, many transition-type dwarfs would closely resemble dSphs
if their gas were removed; they are likely dSph progenitors. As gas removal is
key, we consider the empirical evidence for various gas removal processes. We
suggest that internal gas removal mechanisms are inadequate and favor ram
pressure stripping to make dSphs. A combination of initial conditions and
environment seems to support the formation of dSphs, which appear to form from
small galaxies with active early star formation, whose evolution halts due to
externally induced gas loss. Transition-type dwarfs then are dSphs that kept
their ISM, and therefore should replace dSphs in isolated locations where
stripping is ineffective. (Abridged)

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