Spectral modeling of star-forming regions in the ultraviolet: stellar metallicity diagnostics for high-redshift galaxies.
RIX S.A., PETTINI M., LEITHERER C., BRESOLIN F., KUDRITZKI R.-P. and STEIDEL C.C.
Abstract (from CDS):
The chemical composition of high-redshift galaxies is an important property that gives clues to their past history and future evolution and yet is difficult to measure with current techniques. In this paper we investigate new metallicity indicators based on the strengths of stellar photospheric features at rest-frame ultraviolet wavelengths. By combining the evolutionary spectral synthesis code Starburst99 with the output from the non-LTE model atmosphere code WM-basic, we have developed a code that can model the integrated ultraviolet stellar spectra of star-forming regions at metallicities between 1/20 and twice solar. We use our models to explore a number of spectral regions that are sensitive to metallicity and clean of other spectral features. The most promising metallicity indicator is an absorption feature between 1935 and 2020 Å, which arises from the blending of numerous Fe III transitions. We compare our model spectra with observations of two well-studied high-redshift star-forming galaxies, MS 1512-cB58 (a Lyman break galaxy at zem=2.7276) and Q1307-BM1163 (a UV-bright galaxy at zem=1.411). The profiles of the photospheric absorption features observed in these galaxies are well reproduced by the models. In addition, the metallicities inferred from their equivalent widths are in good agreement with previous determinations based on interstellar absorption and nebular emission lines. Our new technique appears to be a promising alternative, or complement, to established methods, which have only a limited applicability at high redshifts.