The stellar initial mass function in early-type galaxies from absorption line spectroscopy. II. Results.
CONROY C. and VAN DOKKUM P.G.
Abstract (from CDS):
The spectral absorption lines in early-type galaxies contain a wealth of information regarding the detailed abundance pattern, star formation history, and stellar initial mass function (IMF) of the underlying stellar population. Using our new population synthesis model that accounts for the effect of variable abundance ratios of 11 elements, we analyze very high quality absorption line spectra of 38 early-type galaxies and the nuclear bulge of M31. These data extend to 1 µm and they therefore include the IMF-sensitive spectral features Na I, Ca II, and FeH at 0.82 µm, 0.86 µm, and 0.99 µm, respectively. The models fit the data well, with typical rms residuals ≲ 1%. Strong constraints on the IMF and therefore the stellar mass-to-light ratio, (M/L)stars, are derived for individual galaxies. We find that the IMF becomes increasingly bottom-heavy with increasing velocity dispersion and [Mg/Fe]. At the lowest dispersions and [Mg/Fe] values the derived IMF is consistent with the Milky Way (MW) IMF, while at the highest dispersions and [Mg/Fe] values the derived IMF contains more low-mass stars (is more bottom-heavy) than even a Salpeter IMF. Our best-fit (M/L)starsvalues do not exceed dynamically based M/L values. We also apply our models to stacked spectra of four metal-rich globular clusters in M31 and find an (M/L)stars that implies fewer low-mass stars than a MW IMF, again agreeing with dynamical constraints. We discuss other possible explanations for the observed trends and conclude that variation in the IMF is the simplest and most plausible.
galaxies: abundances - galaxies: elliptical and lenticular, cD - galaxies: stellar content