The Leo Elliptical NGC 3379: A Metal‐Poor Halo Emerges Academic Article uri icon

  •  
  • Overview
  •  
  • Research
  •  
  • Identity
  •  
  • Additional Document Info
  •  
  • View All
  •  

abstract

  • We have used the ACS camera on HST to obtain (V,I) photometry for 5300 red-giant stars in the halo of the dominant Leo-group member NGC 3379, a galaxy usually regarded as a classic normal giant elliptical. We use this sample of stars to derive the metallicity distribution function (MDF) for its outer-halo field stars 33 kpc from the galaxy center. The MDF is distinctly unlike all the other E galaxies for which we have similar data (including the Local Group dwarf ellipticals, the intermediate-luminosity NGC 3377, and the giant NGC 5128). First, the MDF for the NGC 3379 outer halo is broad and flat, with many stars at every interval in [m/H]. Second, we see a metallicity gradient across our ACS field such that in its outermost region the blue, low-metallicity stars ([m/H] < -0.7) are beginning to dominate and the higher-metallicity stars are rapidly diminishing. Our target field is centered at a projected distance about equal to 12 R_e, twice as far out in units of effective radius as in any of the other galaxies that we have surveyed. If NGC 3379 is indeed representative of large E/S0 galaxies, we predict that such galaxies in general will reveal diffuse low-metallicity subpopulations, but that photometry at radii r ~ 10 - 15 R_e will be necessary to see the faint low-metallicity component clearly.

publication date

  • September 10, 2007