We study the radial dependence in stellar populations of 33 nearby early-type galaxies with central stellar velocity dispersions σ* ≳ 150 km s-1. We measure stellar population properties in composite spectra, and use ratios of these composites to highlight the largest spectral changes as a function of radius. Based on stellar population modeling, the typical star at 2Re is old (∼ 10 Gyr), relatively metal-poor ([Fe/H] ≈ -0.5), and α-enhanced ([Mg/Fe] ≈ 0.3). The stars were made rapidly at z ≈ 1.5-2 in shallow potential wells. Declining radial gradients in [C/Fe], which follow [Fe/H], also arise from rapid star formation timescales due to declining carbon yields from low-metallicity massive stars. In contrast, [N/Fe] remains high at large radius. Stars at large radius have different abundance ratio patterns from stars in the center of any present-day galaxy, but are similar to average Milky Way thick disk stars. Our observations are thus consistent with a picture in which the stellar outskirts are built up through minor mergers with disky galaxies whose star formation is truncated early (z ≈ 1.5-2).
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Astronomy and Astrophysics
- Space and Planetary Science
- galaxies: abundances
- galaxies: elliptical and lenticular, cD
- galaxies: evolution