The stellar initial mass function in early-type galaxies from absorption line spectroscopy. I. Data and empirical trends.
VAN DOKKUM P.G. and CONROY C.
Abstract (from CDS):
The strength of gravity-sensitive absorption lines in the integrated light of old stellar populations is one of the few direct probes of the stellar initial mass function (IMF) outside of the Milky Way. Owing to the advent of fully depleted CCDs with little or no fringing it has recently become possible to obtain accurate measurements of these features. Here, we present spectra covering the wavelength ranges 0.35-0.55 µm and 0.72-1.03 µm for the bulge of M31 and 34 early-type galaxies from the SAURON sample, obtained with the Low Resolution Imaging Spectrometer on Keck. The signal-to-noise ratio is ≳ 200 Å–1 out to 1 µm, which is sufficient to measure gravity-sensitive features for individual galaxies and to determine how they depend on other properties of the galaxies. Combining the new data with previously obtained spectra for globular clusters in M31 and the most massive elliptical galaxies in the Virgo cluster, we find that the dwarf-sensitive Na I λ8183, 8195 doublet and the FeH λ9916 Wing-Ford band increase systematically with velocity dispersion, while the giant-sensitive Ca II λ8498, 8542, 8662 triplet decreases with dispersion. These trends are consistent with a varying IMF, such that galaxies with deeper potential wells have more dwarf-enriched mass functions. In a companion paper, we use a comprehensive stellar population synthesis model to demonstrate that IMF effects can be separated from age and abundance variations and quantify the IMF variation among early-type galaxies.