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Published August 10, 2010 | Published + Accepted Version
Journal Article Open

The Chemical Evolution of the Ursa Minor Dwarf Spheroidal Galaxy


We present an abundance analysis based on high-resolution spectra of 10 stars selected to span the full range in metallicity in the Ursa Minor (UMi) dwarf spheroidal (dSph) galaxy. We find that [Fe/H] for the sample stars ranges from –1.35 to –3.10 dex. Combining our sample with previously published work for a total of 16 luminous UMi giants, we establish the trends of abundance ratios [X/Fe] as functions of [Fe/H] for 15 elements. In key cases, particularly for the α-elements, these trends resemble those for stars in the outer part of the Galactic halo, especially at the lowest metallicities probed. The neutron-capture elements show an r-process distribution over the full range of Fe metallicity reached in this dSph galaxy. This suggests that the duration of star formation in the UMi dSph was shorter than in other dSph galaxies. The derived ages for a larger sample of UMi stars with more uncertain metallicities also suggest a population dominated by uniformly old (~13 Gyr) stars, with a hint of an age-metallicity relationship. Upon comparing our results for UMi, our earlier work in Draco, and published studies of more metal-rich dSph Galactic satellites, there appears to be a pattern of moving from a chemical inventory for dSph giants with [Fe/H] ≾ –2 dex, which is very similar to that of stars in the outer part of the Galactic halo (enhanced α/Fe relative to the Sun, coupled with subsolar [X/Fe] for the heavy neutron-capture elements and r-process domination), switching to subsolar α-elements and super-solar s-process-dominated neutron-capture elements for the highest [Fe/H] dSph stars. The combination of low star formation rates over a varying and sometimes extended duration that produced the stellar populations in the local dSph galaxies with [Fe/H] > – 1.5 dex leads to a chemical inventory wildly discrepant from that of any component of the Milky Way. We note the presence of two UMi giants with [Fe/H] < –3.0 dex in our sample and reaffirm that the inner Galactic halo could have been formed by early accretion of Galactic satellite galaxies and dissolution of young globular clusters, while the outer halo could have formed from those satellite galaxies that accreted somewhat later.

Additional Information

© 2010 The American Astronomical Society. Received 2010 March 5; accepted 2010 June 16; published 2010 July 23. Based on observations obtained at the W. M. Keck Observatory, which is operated jointly by the California Institute of Technology, the University of California, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The entire Keck/HIRES and LRIS user communities owe a huge debt to Jerry Nelson, Gerry Smith, Steve Vogt, and many other people who have worked to make the Keck Telescope and HIRES a reality and to operate and maintain the Keck Observatory. We are grateful to the W. M. Keck Foundation for the vision to fund the construction of the W. M. Keck Observatory. The authors wish to extend special thanks to those of Hawaiian ancestry on whose sacred mountain we are privileged to be guests. Without their generous hospitality, none of the observations presented herein would have been possible. The authors are grateful to NSF grant AST-0507219 and grant AST-0908139 for partial support. This publication makes use of data from the Two Micron All Sky Survey, which is a joint project of the University of Massachusetts and the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center, funded by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the National Science Foundation.

Attached Files

Published - Cohen2010p11130Astrophys_J.pdf

Accepted Version - 1006.3538.pdf


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August 22, 2023
October 20, 2023