Astronomy and Astrophysics, volume 494, 915-932 (2009/2-2)
Metal enrichment of the neutral gas of blue compact dwarf galaxies: the compelling case of Pox36.
LEBOUTEILLER V., KUNTH D., THUAN T.X. and DESERT J.-M.
Abstract (from CDS):
Evidence has grown over the past few years that the neutral phase of blue compact dwarf (BCD) galaxies may be metal-deficient as compared to the ionized gas of their H regions. These results have strong implications for our understanding of the chemical evolution of galaxies, and it is essential to strengthen the method, as well as to find possible explanations. We present the analysis of the interstellar spectrum of Pox36 with the Far Ultraviolet Spectroscopic Explorer (FUSE). Pox36 was selected because of the relatively low foreground gas content that makes it possible to detect absorption-lines weak enough that unseen components should not be saturated. Interstellar lines of H, N, O, Si, P, Ar, and Fe are detected. Column densities are derived directly from the observed line profiles except for H, whose lines are contaminated by stellar absorption, thus needing the stellar continuum to be removed. We used the TLUSTY models to remove the stellar continuum and isolate the interstellar component. The best fit indicates that the dominant stellar population is B0. The observed far-UV flux agrees with an equivalent number of ∼300 B0 stars. The fit of the interstellar H line gives a column density of 1020.3±0.4cm–2. Chemical abundances were then computed from the column densities using the dominant ionization stage in the neutral gas. Our abundances are compared to those measured from emission-line spectra in the optical, probing the ionized gas of the H regions. Our results suggest that the neutral gas of Pox36 is metal-deficient by a factor ∼7 as compared to the ionized gas, and they agree with a metallicity of ≃1/35Z☉. Elemental depletion is not problematic because of the low dust content along the selected lines of sight. In contrast, the ionized gas shows a clear depletion pattern, with iron being strongly depleted. The abundance discontinuity between the neutral and ionized phases implies that most of the metals released by consecutive star-formation episodes mixes with the H gas. The volume extent of the enrichment is so large that the metallicity of the neutral gas increases only slightly. The star-forming regions could be enriched only by a small fraction (∼1%), but it would greatly enhance its metallicity. Our results are compared to those of other BCDs. We confirm the overall underabundance of metals in their neutral gas, with perhaps only the lowest metallicity BCDs showing no discontinuity.
ISM: abundances - ISM: HII regions - line: profiles - galaxies: abundances - galaxies: dwarf - galaxies: individual: Pox 36
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