Star formation, supernovae, iron, and alpha: consistent cosmic and Galactic histories

Dan Maoz, Or Graur

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Recent versions of the observed cosmic star-formation history (SFH) have resolved an inconsistency with the stellar mass density history. We show that the revised SFH also scales up the delay-time distribution (DTD) of Type Ia supernovae (SNe Ia), as determined from the observed volumetric SN Ia rate history, aligning it with other field-galaxy SN Ia DTD measurements. The revised-SFH-based DTD has a t^-1.1 +/- 0.1 form and a Hubble-time-integrated production efficiency of N/M* = 1.3 +/- 0.1 SNe Ia per 1000 Mo of formed stellar mass. Using these revised histories and updated empirical iron yields of the various SN types, we re-derive the cosmic iron accumulation history. Core-collapse SNe and SNe Ia have contributed about equally to the total mass of iron in the Universe today. We find the track of the average cosmic gas element in the alpha/Fe vs. [Fe/H] abundance-ratio plane. The track is broadly similar to the observed main locus of Galactic stars in this plane, indicating a Milky Way (MW) SFH similar in form to the cosmic one. We easily find a simple MW SFH that makes the track closely match this stellar locus. Galaxy clusters appear to have a higher-normalization DTD. This cluster DTD, combined with a short-burst MW SFH peaked at z=3, produces a track that matches remarkably well the observed "high-alpha" locus of MW stars, suggesting the halo/thick-disk population has had a galaxy-cluster-like formation mode. Thus, a simple two-component SFH, combined with empirical DTDs and SN iron yields, suffices to closely reproduce the MW's stellar abundance patterns.
Original languageEnglish
Article number25
Number of pages9
JournalThe Astrophysical Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 6 Oct 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • astro-ph.HE
  • astro-ph.CO
  • astro-ph.GA


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