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The COS/UVES Absorption Survey of the Magellanic Stream. II. Evidence for a complex enrichment history of the Stream from the Fairall 9 sightline

The COS/UVES Absorption Survey of the Magellanic Stream. II. Evidence for a complex enrichment history of the Stream from the Fairall 9 sightline

Publication date: 02 July 2013

Authors: Richter, P., et al.

Journal: The Astrophysical Journal
Volume: 772
Issue: 2
Page: 111
Year: 2013

Copyright: The American Astronomical Society

We present a multi-wavelength study of the Magellanic Stream (MS), a massive gaseous structure in the Local Group that is believed to represent material stripped from the Magellanic Clouds. We use ultraviolet, optical and radio data obtained with HST/COS, VLT/UVES, FUSE, GASS, and ATCA to study metal abundances and physical conditions in the Stream toward the quasar Fairall 9. Line absorption in the MS from a large number of metal ions and from molecular hydrogen is detected in up to seven absorption components, indicating the presence of multi-phase gas. From the analysis of unsaturated S II absorption, in combination with a detailed photoionization model, we obtain a surprisingly high alpha abundance in the Stream toward Fairall 9 of [S/H] = -0.30 ± 0.04 (0.50 solar). This value is five times higher than what is found along other MS sightlines based on similar COS/UVES data sets. In contrast, the measured nitrogen abundance is found to be substantially lower ([N/H] = -1.15 ± 0.06), implying a very low [N/alpha] ratio of -0.85 dex. The substantial differences in the chemical composition of MS toward Fairall 9 compared to other sightlines point toward a complex enrichment history of the Stream. We favor a scenario, in which the gas toward Fairall 9 was locally enriched with alpha elements by massive stars and then was separated from the Magellanic Clouds before the delayed nitrogen enrichment from intermediate-mass stars could set in. Our results support (but do not require) the idea that there is a metal-enriched filament in the Stream toward Fairall 9 that originates in the LMC.

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