An integral field study of abundance gradients in nearby luminous infrared galaxies.
RICH J.A., TORREY P., KEWLEY L.J., DOPITA M.A. and RUPKE D.S.N.
Abstract (from CDS):
We present for the first time metallicity maps generated using data from the Wide Field Spectrograph on the ANU 2.3 m of 10 luminous infrared galaxies (LIRGs) and discuss the abundance gradients and distribution of metals in these systems. We have carried out optical integral field spectroscopy (IFS) of several LIRGs in various merger phases to investigate the merger process. In a major merger of two spiral galaxies with preexisting disk abundance gradients, the changing distribution of metals can be used as a tracer of gas flows in the merging system as low-metallicity gas is transported from the outskirts of each galaxy to their nuclei. We employ this fact to probe merger properties by using the emission lines in our IFS data to calculate the gas-phase metallicity in each system. We create abundance maps and subsequently derive a metallicity gradient from each map. We compare our measured gradients to merger stage as well as several possible tracers of merger progress and observed nuclear abundances. We discuss our work in the context of previous abundance gradient observations and compare our results to new galaxy merger models that trace metallicity gradient. Our results agree with the observed flattening of metallicity gradients as a merger progresses. We compare our results with new theoretical predictions that include chemical enrichment. Our data show remarkable agreement with these simulations.