The COS/UVES Absorption Survey of the Magellanic Stream. I. One-tenth Solar Abundances along the Body of the Stream
The Astrophysical Journal, Volume 772, Issue 2, article id. 110, 16 pp. (2013).
Published in Aug 2013
The Magellanic Stream (MS) is a massive and extended tail of multi-phase gas stripped out of the Magellanic Clouds and interacting with the Galactic halo. In this first paper of an ongoing program to study the Stream in absorption, we present a chemical abundance analysis based on HST/COS and VLT/UVES spectra of four active galactic nuclei (RBS 144, NGC 7714, PHL 2525, and HE 0056-3622) lying behind the MS. Two of these sightlines yield good MS metallicity measurements: toward RBS 144 we measure a low MS metallicity of [S/H] = [S II/H I] = -1.13 ± 0.16 while toward NGC 7714 we measure [O/H] = [O I/H I] = -1.24 ± 0.20. Taken together with the published MS metallicity toward NGC 7469, these measurements indicate a uniform abundance of ≈0.1 solar along the main body of the Stream. This provides strong support to a scenario in which most of the Stream was tidally stripped from the SMC ≈ 1.5-2.5 Gyr ago (a time at which the SMC had a metallicity of ≈0.1 solar), as predicted by several N-body simulations. However, in Paper II of this series, we report a much higher metallicity (S/H = 0.5 solar) in the inner Stream toward Fairall 9, a direction sampling a filament of the MS that Nidever et al. claim can be traced kinematically to the Large Magellanic Cloud, not the Small Magellanic Cloud. This shows that the bifurcation of the Stream is evident in its metal enrichment, as well as its spatial extent and kinematics. Finally we measure a similar low metallicity [O/H] = [O I/H I] = -1.03 ± 0.18 in the v LSR = 150 km s-1 cloud toward HE 0056-3622, which belongs to a population of anomalous velocity clouds near the south Galactic pole. This suggests these clouds are associated with the Stream or more distant structures (possibly the Sculptor Group, which lies in this direction at the same velocity), rather than tracing foreground Galactic material.Based on observations taken under program 12604 of the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, obtained at the Space Telescope Science Institute, which is operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc., under NASA contract NAS 5-26555, and under proposal ID 085.C-0172(A) with the Ultraviolet and Visual Echelle Spectrograph (UVES) on the Very Large Telescope (VLT) Unit 2 (Kueyen) operated by the European Southern Observatory (ESO) at Paranal, Chile.
Galaxy: evolution; Galaxy: halo; ISM: abundances; Magellanic Clouds; ultraviolet: ISM