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Age patterns in a sample of nearby spiral galaxies

By M. Carmen Sánchez-Gil, D. Heath Jones, Enrique Pérez, Joss Bland-Hawthorn, Emilio J. Alfaro and John O'Byrne


We present the burst ages for young stellar populations in a sample of six nearby (< 10 Mpc) spiral galaxies using a differential pixel-based analysis of the ionized gas emission. We explore this as an alternative approach for connecting large-scale dynamical mechanisms with star formation processes in disk galaxies, based on burst ages derived from the Ha to far UV (FUV) flux ratio. Images of each galaxy in Ha were taken with Taurus Tunable Filter (TTF) and matched to FUV imaging from GALEX. The resulting flux ratio provides a robust measure of relative age across the disk which we discuss in terms of the large-scale dynamical motions. Systematic effects, such as a variable initial mass function (IMF), non-solar metallicities, variable star-formation history (SFHs), and dust attenuation, have been used to derive estimates of the systematic uncertainty. The resulting age maps show a wide range of patterns outside of those galaxies with the strongest spiral structure, confirming the idea that star formation is driven one by several processes, largely determined by the individual circumstances of the galaxy. Generally, grand design spirals such as M74, M100, and M51 exhibit age gradients across the main spiral arms, with the youngest star formation regions along the central and inner edges. In M63 and M74 galaxy-wide trends emerge, suggesting that although most star formation is located along spiral arms, spiral density waves are not the only driver in these cases. We argue that despite appearances, galaxy morphology is not an absolute discriminator of the star formation history of an individual galaxy, nor of the processes triggering it. We conclude that Ha-to-FUV flux ratios are a relatively direct way to probe burst ages across galaxies and infer something of their dynamical histories, provided that sources of systematics are properly taken into account.Comment: The paper contains 22 pages, 13 figures and 5 table

Topics: Astrophysics - Astrophysics of Galaxies
Year: 2011
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