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The stellar content of the Hamburg/ESO survey. V. The metallicity distribution function of the Galactic halo

Schörck, T. and Christlieb, N. and Cohen, J. G. and Beers, T. C. and Shectman, S. and Thompson, I. and McWilliam, A. and Bessell, M. S. and Norris, J. E. and Meléndez, J. and Ramírez, S. and Haynes, D. and Cass, P. and Hartley, M. and Russell, K. and Watson, F. and Zickgraf, F.-J. and Behnke, B. and Fechner, C. and Fuhrmeister, B. and Barklem, P. S. and Edvardsson, B. and Frebel, A. and Wisotzki, L. and Reimers, D. (2009) The stellar content of the Hamburg/ESO survey. V. The metallicity distribution function of the Galactic halo. Astronomy and Astrophysics, 507 (2). pp. 817-832. ISSN 0004-6361.

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We determine the metallicity distribution function (MDF) of the Galactic halo by means of a sample of 1638 metal-poor stars selected from the Hamburg/ESO objective-prism survey (HES). The sample was corrected for minor biases introduced by the strategy for spectroscopic follow-up observations of the metal-poor candidates, namely “best and brightest stars first”. Comparison of the metallicities [Fe/H] of the stars determined from moderate-resolution (i.e., R ~ 2000) follow-up spectra with results derived from abundance analyses based on high-resolution spectra (i.e., R > 20000) shows that the [Fe/H] estimates used for the determination of the halo MDF are accurate to within 0.3 dex, once highly C-rich stars are eliminated. We determined the selection function of the HES, which must be taken into account for a proper comparison between the HES MDF with MDFs of other stellar populations or those predicted by models of Galactic chemical evolution. The latter show a reasonable agreement with the overall shape of the HES MDF for [Fe/H] > −3.6, but only a model of Salvadori et al. (2007) with a critical metallicity for low-mass star formation of Z_(cr) = 10^(−3.4) Z_☉ reproduces the sharp drop at [Fe/H] ∼ −3.6 present in the HES MDF. Although currently about ten stars at [Fe/H] < −3.6 are known, the evidence for the existence of a tail of the halo MDF extending to [Fe/H] ~ −5.5 is weak from the sample considered in this paper, because it only includes two stars [Fe/H] < −3.6. Therefore, a comparison with theoretical models has to await larger statistically complete and unbiased samples. A comparison of the MDF of Galactic globular clusters and of dSph satellites to the Galaxy shows qualitative agreement with the halo MDF, derived from the HES, once the selection function of the latter is included. However, statistical tests show that the differences between these are still highly significant.

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Cohen, J. G.0000-0002-8039-4673
Additional Information:© 2009 ESO. Received 6 September 2008; accepted 7 September 2009. We thank T. Karlsson, N. Prantzos, and S. Salvadori for providing us with electronic versions of published theoretical MDFs, and for enlightening discussions. Valuable comments on an earlier version of this paper by S. Ryan are gratefully acknowledged. We thank the DART collaboration for providing us with unpublished metallicities of stars in Carina, Sextans and Sculptor. N.C. and D.R. acknowledge financial support from Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft through grants Ch 214/3 and Re 353/44. N.C. is also supported by the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation. J.G.C. is grateful to NSF grant AST-0507219 for partial support. T.C.B. acknowledges partial funding for this work from grants AST 04-06784, AST 06-07154, AST 07-07776, PHY 02-16873, and PHY 08-226498: Physics Frontier Center/Joint Institute for Nuclear Astrophysics (JINA), all awarded by the US National Science Foundation. M.S.B. and J.E.N. acknowledge support from the Australian Research Council under grants DP0342613 and DP0663562. A.F. acknowledges support from the W. J. McDonald Fellowship of the McDonald Observatory. P.S.B. is a Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences Research Fellow supported by a grant from the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation. P.S.B. also acknowledges the support of the Swedish Research Council.
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG)Ch 214/3
Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG)Re 353/44
Knut and Alice Wallenberg FoundationUNSPECIFIED
NSFAST 04-06784
NSFAST 06-07154
NSFAST 07-07776
NSFPHY 02-16873
NSFPHY 08-226498
Australian Research CouncilDP0342613
Australian Research CouncilDP0663562
W. J. McDonald FellowshipUNSPECIFIED
Swedish Research CouncilUNSPECIFIED
Subject Keywords:stars: population II; surveys; Galaxy: evolution
Issue or Number:2
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20091209-112919518
Persistent URL:
Official Citation:The stellar content of the Hamburg/ESO survey - V. The metallicity distribution function of the Galactic halo T. Schörck, N. Christlieb, J. G. Cohen, T. C. Beers, S. Shectman, I. Thompson, A. McWilliam, M. S. Bessell, J. E. Norris, J. Meléndez, S. Ramírez, D. Haynes, P. Cass, M. Hartley, K. Russell, F. Watson, F.-J. Zickgraf, B. Behnke, C. Fechner, B. Fuhrmeister, P. S. Barklem, B. Edvardsson, A. Frebel, L. Wisotzki and D. Reimers A&A 507 (2) 817-832 (2009) DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361/200810925
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:16926
Deposited By: Jason Perez
Deposited On:09 Dec 2009 22:05
Last Modified:03 Jun 2019 20:43

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