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Astron. Astrophys. 346, 428-431 (1999)

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On the origin of nitrogen in low-metallicity galaxies

Blue compact galaxies versus damped Ly[FORMULA] absorbers

L.S. Pilyugin

Main Astronomical Observatory of National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, Goloseevo, 252650 Kiev-22, Ukraine (pilyugin@mao.kiev.ua)

Received 17 February 1999 / Accepted 8 April 1999


A remarkably small scatter in the N/O ratios for the HII regions in low-metallicity blue compact galaxies (BCG) has been found recently. It lead to the conclusion that N and O are both produced by massive stars. Conversely, the N/Si ratios in damped Ly[FORMULA] absorbers (DLA) show a large scatter. This result provides support for the time-delay model of nitrogen production in intermediate-mass stars, nitrogen production in massive stars being not required. The goal of this study is to test whether these observational data are compatible with each other and with the existing ideas on the chemical evolution of galaxies.

We find that it is possible to reconcile the constancy of N/O ratios in low-metallicity BCGs and the scatter of N/Si ratios in DLAs under the following three assumptions: 1) a significant part of nitrogen is produced by intermediate-mass stars, 2) star formation in BCGs and DLAs occurs in bursts separated by quiescent periods, 3) the previous star formation events are responsible for measured heavy element abundances of HII regions in BCGs.

Since the reality of low N/Si ratios in DLAs is not beyond question, the possibility that the nitrogen in low-metallicity BCGs has been produced by massive stars cannot be rejected without additional observations.

Key words: galaxies: abundances – galaxies: ISM – galaxies: irregular – galaxies: quasars: absorption lines

Send offprint requests to: L.S. Pilyugin

© European Southern Observatory (ESO) 1999

Online publication: May 21, 1999