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Astron. Astrophys. 340, 67-76 (1998)

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The chemical evolution of dynamically hot galaxies

Michael G. Richer * 1, Marshall L. McCall 2 and Grayna Stasiska[FORMULA] 3

1 Instituto de Astronomía, UNAM, Apartado Postal 70-264, 04510 México, D.F., México (e-mail: richer@astroscu.unam.mx)
2 Department of Physics and Astronomy, York University, 4700 Keele Street, Toronto, Ontario, M3J 1P3 Canada (e-mail: mccall@aries.phys.yorku.ca)
3 DAEC, Observatoire de Meudon, 5 Place Jules Janssen, F-92195 Meudon Cedex, France (e-mail: grazyna@obspm.fr)

Received 8 June 1998 / Accepted 22 September 1998


We investigate the chemical properties of M32, the bulges of M31 and the Milky Way, and the dwarf spheroidal galaxies NGC 205, NGC 185, Sagittarius, and Fornax using previously published oxygen abundances for their planetary nebulae. Our principal result is that the mean stellar oxygen abundances for all of these galaxies correlate very well with their mean velocity dispersions. This implies that the balance between energy input from type II supernovae and the gravitational potential energy controls how far chemical evolution proceeds in bulges, ellipticals, and dwarf spheroidals. It appears that chemical evolution ceases once supernovae have injected sufficient energy that a galactic wind develops. All of the galaxies follow a single relation between oxygen abundance and luminosity, but the dwarf spheroidals have systematically higher [O/Fe] ratios than the other galaxies. Consequently, dynamically hot galaxies do not share a common star formation history nor need they share a common chemical evolution, despite attaining similar mean stellar oxygen abundances when forming similar stellar masses. The oxygen abundances support previous indications that the stars in higher luminosity ellipticals and bulges were formed on a shorter time scale than their counterparts in less luminous systems. We calibrate the Mg2 index for dynamically hot galaxies as a function of observed age and oxygen abundance using the mean oxygen abundances from the planetary nebulae and the best age estimates available for the stars in M32 and the bulges of M31 and the Milky Way.

Key words: ISM: planetary nebulae: general – galaxies: abundances – galaxies: elliptical and lenticular, cD – galaxies: evolution – galaxies: ISM

* Visiting Astronomer, Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope, operated by the National Research Council of Canada, le Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique de France, and the University of Hawaii

Send offprint requests to: M.G. Richer

© European Southern Observatory (ESO) 1998

Online publication: November 3, 1998