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Astron. Astrophys. 323, 363-373 (1997)

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Bar strength and star formation activity in late-type barred galaxies

L. Martinet and D. Friedli

Observatoire de Genève, CH-1290 Sauverny, Switzerland (Louis.Martinet@obs.unige.ch)

Received 23 September 1996 / Accepted 20 December 1996


With the prime aim of better probing and understanding the intimate link between star formation activity and the presence of bars, a representative sample of 32 non-interacting late-type galaxies with well-determined bar properties has been selected. We show that all the galaxies displaying the highest current star forming activity have both strong and long bars. Conversely not all strong and long bars are intensively creating stars. Except for two cases, strong bars are in fact long as well. Numerical simulations allow to understand these observational facts as well as the connection between bar axis ratio, star formation activity, and chemical abundance gradient: Very young strong bars are first characterized by a raging episode of star formation and two different radial gaseous abundance gradients, one steep in the bar and one shallow in the disc. Then, principally due to gas consumption, galaxies progressively fall back in a more quiescent state with a nearly flat abundance gradient across the whole galaxy. On the contrary, weak bars are unable to trigger significant star formation or to generate flat abundance gradients. The selected galaxies have tentatively been classified in four classes corresponding to main stages of secular evolution scenario.

Key words: galaxies: abundances – galaxies: evolution – galaxies: starburst – galaxies: structure – infrared: galaxies

Present address: Département de physique, Université Laval, Ste-Foy, QC, G1K 7P4, Canada; dfriedli@phy.ulaval.ca

Send offprint requests to: L. Martinet

© European Southern Observatory (ESO) 1997

Online publication: June 5, 1998