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Astron. Astrophys. 327, 22-26

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Zinc and chromium abundances
in a third damped Lyman FORMULA system at intermediate redshift

Max Pettini1 and David V. Bowen2

1Royal Greenwich Observatory, Madingley Road, Cambridge, CB3 0EZ, UK
2Royal Observatory, Blackford Hill, Edinburgh, EH9 3HJ, UK

Received 21 April 1997 / Accepted 23 May 1997


We have determined the metallicity of the zabs = 1.0093 damped Lyman FORMULA system in the bright QSO EX 0302-223; this is only the third such measurement at redshifts FORMULA . Unlike the previous two cases, we find that the abundance of Zn is only a factor of FORMULA lower than in the Galactic interstellar medium today and is entirely compatible with the typical metallicity of stars in the Milky Way disk at a look-back time of 9.5 Gyrs. Although the galaxy responsible for producing the absorption system has yet to be positively identified, our observations show that galaxies on a chemical evolution path similar to that of the Milky Way do contribute to the damped Lyman FORMULA population at intermediate redshifts. Cr is 2.5 times less abundant than Zn, presumably because of depletion onto dust; however, the degree of depletion is less severe than in diffuse interstellar clouds in the disk of our Galaxy and in the Magellanic Clouds. Evidently, the interstellar environment in damped Lyman FORMULA galaxies is less conducive to the formation and survival of dust grains (and molecular hydrogen), but the physical processes at the root of this effect have yet to be clarified.

Key words: galaxies: abundances - galaxies: ISM - quasar: absorption lines - quasar: individual: EX 0302-223

© European Southern Observatory (ESO) 1997

Online publication: October 1, 1997
Last change: April 8, 1998