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Session 51 - Star Formation & Chemical Evolution of Galaxies.
Display session, Tuesday, January 16
North Banquet Hall, Convention Center

[51.03] Effects of Cluster Environment on Chemical Abundances in Virgo Cluster Spirals

R. C. Kennicutt (U. Arizona), E. D. Skillman (U. Minnesota), G. A. Shields (U. Texas), D. Zaritsky (UCSC)

We have obtained new chemical abundance measurements of HII regions in Virgo cluster spiral galaxies, in order to test whether the cluster environment has significantly influenced the gas-phase abundances and chemical evolution of spiral disks. The sample of 9 Virgo spirals covers a narrow range of morphological type (Sbc - Sc) but shows broad ranges in HI deficiencies and radii in the cluster. This allows us to compare the Virgo sample as a whole to field spirals, using a large sample from Zaritsky, Kennicutt, amp; Huchra, and to test for systematic trends with HI content and location within the cluster. The Virgo spirals show a wide dispersion in mean disk abundances and abundance gradients. Strongly HI deficient spirals closest to the cluster core show anomalously high oxygen abundances (by 0.3 to 0.5 dex), while outlying spirals with normal HI content show abundances similar to those of field spirals. The most HI depleted spirals also show weaker abundance gradients on average, but the formal significance of this trend is marginal. We find a strong correlation between mean abundance and HI/optical diameter ratio that is quite distinct from the behavior seen in field galaxies. This suggests that dynamical processes associated with the cluster environment are more important than cluster membership in determining the evolution of chemical abundances and stellar populations in spiral galaxies. Simple chemical evolution models are calculated to predict the magnitude of the abundance enhancement expected if ram-pressure stripping or curtailment of infall is responsible for the gas deficiencies. The increased abundances of the spirals in the cluster core may have significant effects on their use as cosmological standard candles.

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