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COOLING FLOW STAR FORMATION AND THE APPARENT STELLAR AGES OF ELLIPTICAL GALAXIES

By William G. Mathews and Fabrizio Brighenti

Abstract

Simple theoretical arguments indicate that cooled interstellar gas in bright elliptical galaxies forms into a young stellar population having a bottom-heavy, but optically luminous IMF extending to ∼ 2 M⊙. When the colors and spectral features of this young population are combined with those of the underlying old stellar population, the apparent ages are significantly reduced, similar to the relatively young apparent ages observed in many ellipticals. Galactic mergers are not required to resupply young stars. The sensitivity of continuous star formation to LB and Lx/LB is likely to account for the observed spread in apparent ages among elliptical galaxies. Local star formation is accompanied by enhanced stellar Hβ equivalent widths, stronger optical emission lines, more thermal X-ray emission and lower apparent temperatures in the hot gas. The young stars should cause M/L to vary with galactic radius, perturbing the fundamental plane of the old stars alone

Year: 1999
OAI identifier: oai:CiteSeerX.psu:10.1.1.316.2360
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