Synthetic absorption line strengths in star forming regions, and the effects on the helium abundance determination.
Spectral evolutionary calculations have been employed in order to follow the behaviour of absorption lines in single-burst star forming regions. The model calculations are based on theoretical evolutionary tracks and model atmosphere stellar spectra at 5A resolution and they include the pre-main sequence phase. Three different metallicities have been considered; Z=0.001, 0.008 and 0.020, this range covers easily the one occupied by blue compact dwarf galaxies. This analysis focuses on the post-active burst phase and follows the evolution up to 15 million years after the episode of star formation has ceased, using an instantaneous burst of star formation. The absorption lines included are hydrogen, neutral and once ionized helium. Non-LTE absorption line profiles have been implemented to these lines, also at a 5A resolution. The equivalent widths and line profiles are studied as a function of lower and upper mass limits and slope of the mass function as well as the age. It is shown that the equivalent widths of the Balmer lines are increasing during the course of evolution, while the strength of the neutral and ionized helium lines decreases monotonically. Both the hydrogen and helium lines show high sensitivity to variations in the initial mass function (IMF). The Balmer line equivalent widths range from about 1.5 to 6.5A, depending on the IMF parameters used. As anticipated, these numbers are rather insensitive to the metallicity. Contrary to what has been claimed, the Balmer lines are prominent even if the lower mass limit is as high as 10Msun_. It has been proposed that the weak hydrogen lines sometimes seen in starburst galaxies, often interpreted as evidence for a deficiency in low mass stars, could be due to the finite lifetimes of pre-main sequence stars. This analysis shows that it is very much dependent on the slope of the mass function. The equivalent width of the HeIλ 4471 line never exceeds 0.35A for any choice of the IMF parameters while the equivalent width of the HeIIλ4686 line reaches at the most 0.20A using the most top-heavy IMF. As expected, these numbers are only slightly dependent on the metallicity in the optical spectral region.
Astronomy and Astrophysics Supplement Series
- Pub Date:
- May 1995
- GALAXIES: EVOLUTION;
- GALAXIES: STELLAR CONTENT;
- INTERSTELLAR MEDIUM: HII-REGIONS;
- LINES: PROFILE;
- STARS: MASS FUNCTION