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Heavy-elements heritage of the falling sky

Abstract : Context. A fundamental element of galaxy formation is the accretion of mass through mergers of satellites or gas. Recent dynamical analyses based on Gaia data have revealed major accretion events in the history of the Milky Way. Nevertheless, our understanding of the primordial Galaxy is hindered because the bona fide identification of the most metal-poor and correspondingly oldest accreted stars remains challenging.Aims. Galactic archaeology needs a new accretion diagnostic to understand primordial stellar populations. Contrary to α-elements, neutron-capture elements present unexplained large abundance spreads for low-metallicity stars, which could result from a mixture of formation sites.Methods. We analysed the abundances of yttrium, europium, magnesium, and iron in Milky Way satellite galaxies, field halo stars, and globular clusters. The chemical information was complemented by orbital parameters based on Gaia data. In particular, we considered the average inclination of the orbits.Results. The [Y/Eu] abundance behaviour with respect to the [Mg/Fe] turnovers for satellite galaxies of various masses reveals that higher-luminosity systems, for which the [Mg/Fe] abundance declines at higher metallicities, present enhanced [Y/Eu] abundances, particularly in the [Fe/H] regime between −2.25 dex and −1.25 dex. In addition, the analysis has uncovered a chemo-dynamical correlation for both globular clusters and field stars of the Galactic halo, accounting for about half of the [Y/Eu] abundance spread. In particular, [Y/Eu] under-abundances typical of protracted chemical evolutions are preferentially observed in polar-like orbits, pointing to a possible anisotropy in the accretion processes.Conclusions. Our results strongly suggest that the observed [Y/Eu] abundance spread in the Milky Way halo could result from a mixture of systems with different masses. They also highlight that both nature and nurture are relevant to the formation of the Milky Way since its primordial epochs, thereby opening new pathways for chemical diagnostics of the build-up of our Galaxy.
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Contributor : Edp Sciences <>
Submitted on : Thursday, July 22, 2021 - 12:03:47 PM
Last modification on : Thursday, September 16, 2021 - 3:32:35 AM


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Alejandra Recio-Blanco, Emma Fernández-Alvar, Patrick de Laverny, Teresa Antoja, Amina Helmi, et al.. Heavy-elements heritage of the falling sky. Astronomy and Astrophysics - A&A, EDP Sciences, 2021, 648, pp.A108. ⟨10.1051/0004-6361/202038943⟩. ⟨hal-03295709⟩



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