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H II regions and the abundance properties of spiral galaxies
Zaritsky, Dennis; Kennicutt, Robert C., Jr.; Huchra, John P.
AA(Carnegie Observatories, Pasedena, CA, US), AB(University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ, US), AC(Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Cambridge, MA, US)
Astrophysical Journal, Part 1 (ISSN 0004-637X), vol. 420, no. 1, p. 87-109 (ApJ Homepage)
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NASA/STI Keywords:
Abundance, H Ii Regions, Irregular Galaxies, Oxygen, Spiral Galaxies, Disk Galaxies, Emission Spectra, Metallicity, Stellar Luminosity
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We investigate the relationships between the characteristic oxygen abundance, the radial abundance gradient, and the macroscopic properties of spiral galaxies by examining the properties of individual H II regions within those galaxies. Our observations of the line flux ratio (O II) lambda lambda 3726, 3729 + (O III) lambda lambda 4959, 5007)/H beta for 159 H II regions in 14 spiral galaxies are combined with published data to provide a sample of 39 disk galaxies for which (O II) + (O III)/H beta has been measured for at least five H II regions. We find that the characteristic gas-phase abundances and luminosities of spiral galaxies are strongly correlated. This relationship maps almost directly onto the luminosity-metallicity relationship of irregular galaxies and is also quite similar to that found for elliptical and dwarf spheroidal galaxies. Within our sample of spirals, a strong correlation between characteristic abundance and Hubble type also exists. The correlation between luminosity and Hubble type complicates the issue, but we discuss several interpretations of the correlations. The relationship between circular velocity and characteristic abundance is also discussed. We find that the slopes of the radial abundance gradients, when expressed in units of dex/isophotal radius, do not significantly correlate with either luminosity or Hubble type. However, the hypothesis that both early and very late type spirals have shallower gradients than intermediate spirals is consistent with the data. We find suggestive evidence that the presence of a bar induces a flatter gradient and also briefly discuss whether abundance gradients are exponential, as is usually assumed. We investigate the properties of individual H II regions in a subset of 42 regions for which we have spectra that cover almost the entire spectral range from 3500 to 9800 A. We use those data to estimate the densitites and ionizing spectra within the H II regions. We confirm that the ionizing spectrum hardens with increasing radius and decreasing abundance. We find no correlation between the ionization parameter and either radius or abundance, but this may be due to significant scatter introduced by the simple conversion of line ratios to ionization parameter.

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