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Beyond Earthly Skies

Oxygen Abundance of the Dwarf Galaxy Leo P

7 Jan 2016, 23:00 UTC
Oxygen Abundance of the Dwarf Galaxy Leo P
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Regions of star formation are usually identified by the presence of massive stars. The reason is because massive stars live bright and die young, which means they do not travel far from their place of birth. Heavy elements such as oxygen are created via nuclear fusion in the cores of massive stars. When these stars end their lives in supernova explosions, the heavy elements get ejected out into interstellar space. Unlike a large galaxy like the Milky Way, a dwarf galaxy has a weaker gravitational field. As a result, heavy elements ejected from supernova explosions tend to get pushed out of a dwarf galaxy. This makes dwarf galaxies less efficient at retaining heavy elements, resulting in dwarf galaxies having lower metallicities (i.e. low abundance of elements heavier than hydrogen and helium) compared to more massive galaxies.Figure 1: Artist’s impression of a galaxy.However, external processes can also remove heavy elements from a dwarf galaxy. For example, a dwarf galaxy can become tidally-disrupted when it passes too close to a massive galaxy. A dwarf galaxy can also be stripped of its store of heavy elements via ram pressure stripping when it moves through the intracluster medium in the vicinity of a massive ...

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