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Chemical similarities between Galactic bulge and local thick disk red giants: O, Na, Mg, Al, Si, Ca and Ti

A. Alves-Brito, J. Meléndez, M. Asplund, I. Ramírez, D. Yong

Context. The formation and evolution of the Galactic bulge and its relationship with the other Galactic populations is still poorly understood.
Aims. To establish the chemical differences and similarities between the bulge and other stellar populations, we performed an elemental abundance analysis of α- (O, Mg, Si, Ca, and Ti) and Z-odd (Na and Al) elements of red giant stars in the bulge as well as of local thin disk, thick disk and halo giants.
Methods. We use high-resolution optical spectra of 25 bulge giants in Baade’s window and 55 comparison giants (4 halo, 29 thin disk and 22 thick disk giants) in the solar neighborhood. All stars have similar stellar parameters but cover a broad range in metallicity (-1.5 < [Fe/H] < +0.5). A standard 1D local thermodynamic equilibrium analysis using both Kurucz and MARCS models yielded the abundances of O, Na, Mg, Al, Si, Ca, Ti and Fe. Our homogeneous and differential analysis of the Galactic stellar populations ensured that systematic errors were minimized.
Results. We confirm the well-established differences for [α/Fe] at a given metallicity between the local thin and thick disks. For all the elements investigated, we find no chemical distinction between the bulge and the local thick disk, in agreement with our previous study of C, N and O but in contrast to other groups relying on literature values for nearby disk dwarf stars. For -1.5 < [Fe/H] < -0.3 exactly the same trend is followed by both the bulge and thick disk stars, with a star-to-star scatter of only 0.03 dex. Furthermore, both populations share the location of the knee in the [α/Fe] vs [Fe/H] diagram. It still remains to be confirmed that the local thick disk extends to super-solar metallicities as is the case for the bulge. These are the most stringent constraints to date on the chemical similarity of these stellar populations.
Conclusions. Our findings suggest that the bulge and local thick disk stars experienced similar formation timescales, star formation rates and initial mass functions, confirming thus the main outcomes of our previous homogeneous analysis of [O/Fe] from infrared spectra for nearly the same sample. The identical α-enhancements of thick disk and bulge stars may reflect a rapid chemical evolution taking place before the bulge and thick disk structures we see today were formed, or it may reflect Galactic orbital migration of inner disk/bulge stars resulting in stars in the solar neighborhood with thick-disk kinematics.

Stars: abundances – Galaxy: abundances – Galaxy: bulge – Galaxy: disk – Galaxy: evolution

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Astronomy and Astrophysics
Volume 513, Page A35_1
April 2010

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