Interstellar abundance gradients in NGC 2403: Comparison to M33

D. R. Garnett, G. A. Shields, E. D. Skillman, S. P. Sagan, R. J. Dufour

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233 Scopus citations


We present new long-slit spectra of 12 H II regions in the Scd spiral galaxy NGC 2403. Gas-phase element abundances for O, N, S, Ne, and Ar were estimated using direct measurements of electron temperature based on detections of [O III] A4363, [S III] λ6312, and [O II] λ7320-7330, and from theoretical photoionization analysis. We find abundance gradients for O/H and N/O of -0.102 ± 0.009 dex kpc-1 and -0.032 ± 0.005 dex kpc-1, respectively. The relatively flat N/O gradient suggest a significant source of primary nitrogen. An upper limit for the C/O ratio for one H n region was determined from a Hubble Space Telescope FOS spectrum. A mild outward increasing gradient in S/O is seen at marginal significance (0.03 ± 0.02 dex kpc-1). We compare the abundance gradient and effective oxygen yield deduced for NGC 2403 with those determined for M33, another Scd galaxy with very similar structural parameters. We find close agreement in most of the chemical properties between NGC 2403 and M33. However, the effective yield for oxygen determined from closed box chemical evolution calculations is higher in M33 than in NGC 2403. The higher yield derived for M33 is similar to the case of H I-deficient Virgo spiral galaxies. We also compare NGC 2403 and M33 with a larger sample of unbarred spirals having abundance measurements. The global metallicity of the spirals correlates well with galaxy luminosity, as already noted from earlier investigations. The O/H gradient per unit disk scale length does not correlate with galaxy luminosity with possibly small intrinsic scatter, suggesting that spiral galaxies are homologous with regard to chemical evolution. The correlation between gas abundances and local surface brightness (mass density) in late-type spirals appears to be described well by chemical evolution models incorporating self-regulating star formation. However, the characteristic abundance at a given value of surface brightness correlates with galaxy luminosity. This suggests that an additional parameter which scales with galaxy mass influences the chemical properties of disks.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)63-86
Number of pages24
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1 PART I
StatePublished - 1997

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors acknowledge with gratitude the support given by Universiti Sains Malaysia through Research University (RU) Grant 1001/ PTEKIND/815081.


  • Galaxies: ISM
  • Galaxies: abundances
  • Galaxies: individual (M33, NGC 2403)
  • Galaxies: spiral


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