Re-examining high abundance sloan digital Sky Survey mass-metallicity outliers: High N/O, evolved Wolf-Rayet galaxies?

Danielle A. Berg, Evan D. Skillman, Andrew R. Marble

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25 Scopus citations


We present new MMT spectroscopic observations of four dwarf galaxies representative of a larger sample observed by the Sloan Digital Sky Survey and identified by Peeples etal. as low-mass, high oxygen abundance outliers from the mass-metallicity relation. Peeples showed that these four objects (with metallicity estimates of 8.5 ≤ 12 + log(O/H) ≤ 8.8) have oxygen abundance offsets of 0.4-0.6 dex from the MB luminosity-metallicity relation. Our new observations extend the wavelength coverage to include the [O II] λλ3726, 3729 doublet, which adds leverage in oxygen abundance estimates and allows measurements of N/O ratios. All four spectra are low excitation, with relatively high N/O ratios (N/O ≳ 0.10), each of which tend to bias estimates based on strong emission lines toward high oxygen abundances. These spectra all fall in a regime where the "standard" strong-line methods for metallicity determinations are not well calibrated either empirically or by photoionization modeling. By comparing our spectra directly to photoionization models, we estimate oxygen abundances in the range of 7.9 ≤ 12 + log (O/H) ≤ 8.4, consistent with the scatter of the mass-metallicity relation. We discuss the physical nature of these galaxies that leads to their unusual spectra (and previous classification as outliers), finding their low excitation, elevated N/O, and strong Balmer absorption are consistent with the properties expected from galaxies evolving past the "Wolf-Rayet galaxy" phase. We compare our results to the "main" sample of Peeples and conclude that they are outliers primarily due to enrichment of nitrogen relative to oxygen and not due to unusually high oxygen abundances for their masses or luminosities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number2
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Sep 1 2011


  • galaxies: abundances
  • galaxies: dwarf
  • galaxies: evolution


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