We propose that detailed data on the star formation history of a dwarf spheroidal galaxy (dSph) may be used to estimate the evolution of the total mass Mg(t) for cold gas in its star-forming disc. Using Fornax as an illustrative example, we estimate its Mg(t) and the corresponding net gas flow rate ΔF(t) assuming a global star formation rate ψ(t) = λ*(t)[Mg(t)/M⊙]α consistent with observations of nearby galaxies. We identify the onset of the transition in ΔF(t) from a net inflow to a net outflow as the time tsat at which the Fornax halo became a Milky Way satellite and estimate the evolution of its total mass Mh(t) at t < tsat using the median halo growth history in the current cosmology and its present mass within the half-light radius derived from observations. We examine three different cases of α = 1, 1.5, and 2, and justify the corresponding λ*(t) by comparing the gas mass fraction fg(t) = Mg(t)/Mh(t) at t < tsat with results from simulations of gas accretion by haloes in a reionized universe. We find that the Fornax halo grew to Mh(tsat) ~ 2 × 109M⊙ at tsat ~ 5 or 8 Gyr, in broad agreement with previous studies using data on its stellar kinematics and its orbital motion. We describe qualitatively the evolution of Fornax as a satellite and discuss potential extension of our approach to other dSphs.
Bibliographical notePublisher Copyright:
© 2016 The Authors.
- Galaxies: dwarf
- Galaxies: evolution
- Galaxies: formation
- Galaxies: individual: fornax dwarf galaxy
- Local Group