Wednesday, May 22, 2013

1305.4663 (M. Haywood et al.)

The age structure of stellar populations in the solar vicinity. Clues of a two-phase formation history of the Milky Way disk    [PDF]

M. Haywood, P. Di Matteo, M. Lehnert, D. Katz, A. Gomez
We analyze high quality abundances data of solar neighborhood stars and show that there are two distinct regimes of [alpha/Fe] versus age which we identify as the epochs of the thick and thin disk formation. A tight correlation between metallicity and [alpha/Fe] versus age is clearly identifiable on thick disk stars, implying that this population formed from a well mixed ISM, over a time scale of 4-5 Gyr. Thick disk stars vertical velocity dispersion correlate with age, with the youngest objects having as small scale heights as those of thin disk stars. A natural consequence of these two results is that a vertical metallicity gradient is expected in this population. We suggest that the thick disk set the initial conditions for the formation of the inner thin disk. This provides also an explanation of the apparent coincidence between the step in metallicity at 7-10 kpc in the thin disk and the confinment of the thick disk at about R<10 kpc. We suggest that the outer thin disk developped outside the influence of the thick disk, but also that the high alpha-enrichment of the outer regions may originate from a primordial pollution by the gas expelled from the thick disk. Local metal-poor thin disk stars, whose properties are best explained by an origin in the outer disk, are shown to be as old as the youngest thick disk (9-10 Gyr), implying that the outer thin disk started to form while the thick disk formation was still on-going in the inner Galaxy. We point out that, given the tight age-abundance relations in the thick disk, an inside-out process would give rise to a radial gradient in abundances in this population which is not observed. Finally, we argue that the data discussed here leave little room for radial migration, either to have contaminated the solar vicinity, or, to have redistributed stars in significant proportion across the solar annulus.
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