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Simulating a metallicity-dependent initial mass function: Consequences for feedback and chemical abundances

Abstract

Observational and theoretical arguments increasingly suggest that the initial mass function (IMF) of stars may depend systematically on environment, yet most galaxy formation models to date assume a universal IMF. Here we investigate simulations of the formation of Milky Way analogues run with an empirically derived metallicity-dependent IMF and the moving-mesh code AREPO in order to characterize the associated uncertainties. In particular, we compare a constant Chabrier and a varying metallicity-dependent IMF in cosmological, magneto-hydrodynamical zoom-in simulations of Milky Way-sized halos. We find that the non-linear effects due to IMF variations typically have a limited impact on the morphology and the star formation histories of the formed galaxies. Our results support the view that constraints on stellar-to-halo mass ratios, feedback strength, metallicity evolution and metallicity distributions are in part degenerate with the effects of a non-universal, metallicity-dependent IMF. Interestingly, the empirical relation we use between metallicity and the high mass slope of the IMF does not aid in the quenching process. It actually produces up to a factor of 2-3 more stellar mass if feedback is kept constant. Additionally, the enrichment history and the z = 0 metallicity distribution are significantly affected. In particular, the alpha enhancement pattern shows a steeper dependence on iron abundance in the metallicity-dependent model, in better agreement with observational constraints.Comment: 9 pages, published in MNRA

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