AAS 202nd Meeting, May 2003
Session 40 Galaxies
Poster, Wednesday, May 28, 2003, 10:00am-6:45pm, West Exhibit Hall

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[40.10] Oxygen Abundances in the Rings of Polar-Ring Galaxies

I.R. Radtke, P.B. Eskridge (MnSU), R.W. Pogge (OSU)

Polar ring galaxies (PRGs) are typically early-type (S0 or E) galaxies surrounded by rings of gas, dust, and stars orbiting nearly perpendicular to the principle plane of the host galaxy (Whitmore et al.~1990 AJ 100 1489). Given that PRGs have two separate, perpendicular axes of rotation, it is clear on dynamical grounds that PRGs are the products of merger events between two galaxies, but are observed in a state where two distinct kinematic and morphological structures are still apparent. As such, they present a unique opportunity to study merger events in systems where the debris is not confused with material from the host. Our understanding of the relative importance of polar ring systems in the overall process of galaxy evolution is confounded by our lack of knowledge regarding the typical lifetimes and evolutionary histories of polar rings.

A crucial factor for understanding the formation and evolution of PRGs is information regarding the elemental abundances of the ring material. Polar rings are typically rich in {\protect\ion{H}{2}} regions. Optical spectroscopy of these {\protect\ion{H}{2}} regions can tell us their density, temperature, and oxygen abundance. Our earlier work (Eskridge & Pogge 1997 ApJ 486 259) revealed roughly Solar oxygen abundances for {\protect\ion{H}{2}} regions in the polar ring of NGC 2685. We have extended this project, and now have spectra for six PRGs. Analysis of the data for II Zw 73 and UGC 7576 reveal the polar rings of these galaxies to have {\protect\ion{H}{2}} region oxygen abundances in the range 0.3 to 0.6 Solar, substantially less than found for NGC 2685. Abundances in this range are much easier to explain with conventional models of chemical enrichment and polar ring formation.

We shall present results for our full sample. Taken as a whole, this sample will provide a clear foundation for the typical chemical enrichment patterns in polar rings, and thus provide a clearer understanding of the formation and evolution of these curious objects.

We gratefully acknowledge financial support for this project from the AAS Small Research Grant program, and from a Minnesota State University Faculty Research Grant awarded to P.~Eskridge.

The author(s) of this abstract have provided an email address for comments about the abstract: ian.radtke@mnsu.edu

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