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Centro de Astrofísica da Universidade do Porto

Chemical similarities between Galactic bulge and local thick disk red giant stars

J. Meléndez, M. Asplund, A. Alves-Brito, K. Cunha, B. Barbuy, M. Bessell, C. Chiappini, K. C. Freeman, I. Ramírez, V. V. Smith, D. Yong

Context: The evolution of the Milky Way bulge and its relationship with the other Galactic populations is still poorly understood. The bulge has been suggested to be either a merger-driven classical bulge or the product of a dynamical instability of the inner disk.
Aims: To probe the star formation history, the initial mass function and stellar nucleosynthesis of the bulge, we performed an elemental abundance analysis of bulge red giant stars. We also completed an identical study of local thin disk, thick disk and halo giants to establish the chemical differences and similarities between the various populations.
Methods: High-resolution infrared spectra of 19 bulge giants and 49 comparison giants in the solar neighborhood were acquired with Gemini/Phoenix. All stars have similar stellar parameters but cover a broad range in metallicity. A standard 1D local thermodynamic equilibrium analysis yielded the abundances of C, N, O and Fe. A homogeneous and differential analysis of the bulge, halo, thin disk and thick disk stars ensured that systematic errors were minimized. Results: We confirm the well-established differences for [O/Fe] (at a given metallicity) between the local thin and thick disks. For the elements investigated, we find no chemical distinction between the bulge and the local thick disk, which is in contrast to previous studies relying on literature values for disk dwarf stars in the solar neighborhood. Conclusions: Our findings suggest that the bulge and local thick disk experienced similar, but not necessarily shared, chemical evolution histories. We argue that their formation timescales, star formation rates and initial mass functions were similar.


Astronomy and Astrophysics
Volume 484, Page L21
June 2008

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