Chemical element ratios of Sloan Digital Sky Survey early-type galaxies

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We discuss chemical enrichments of ∼4000 Sloan Digital Sky Survey early-type galaxies using as tracers a large variety of element abundance ratios, namely [C/Fe], [N/Fe], [O/Fe], [Mg/Fe], [Ca/Fe] and [Ti/Fe]. We utilize the stellar population models of absorption line indices from Thomas, Maraston & Johansson which are based on the MILES stellar library. We confirm previous results of increasing age, [Z/H] and [O/Fe] ratios (most often represented by [α/Fe] in the literature) with velocity dispersion. We further derive identical correlations with velocity dispersion for the abundance ratios [O/Fe], [Mg/Fe] and [C/Fe], implying that C/Mg and C/O are close to solar values. This sets a lower limit on the formation time-scales and starburst components of early-type galaxies to ∼0.4 Gyr, which is the lifetime of a 3 M star, since the full C enrichment must be reached. [N/Fe] correlates with velocity dispersion, but offset to lower values and with a steeper slope compared to the other element ratios. We do not find any environmental dependencies for the abundances of C and N, contrary to previous reports in the literature. [Fe/H] does not correlate with velocity dispersion over the entire parameter range covered, but for fixed age we find a steep trend for the [Fe/H]–σ relation. This trend is weaker than the analogous for total metallicity (which also shows steeper trends at fixed age) owing to the lower Fe contribution from Type Ia supernova (SN Ia) for more massive early-type galaxies. We find [Ca/Fe] ratios that are close to solar values over the entire velocity dispersion range covered. Tentative, due to large scatter, the results for [Ti/Fe] indicate that Ti follows the trends of Ca. This implies a significant contribution from SN Ia to the enrichment of heavy α-elements and puts strong constraints on supernova nucleosynthesis and models of galactic chemical evolution.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1908-1926
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number3
Early online date11 Apr 2012
Publication statusPublished - 11 Apr 2012


  • galaxies: abundances
  • galaxies: elliptical and lenticular, cD
  • galaxies: evolution


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