Ionization of the diffuse gas in galaxies: hot low-mass evolved stars at work

Authors

  • N. Flores-Fajardo,

    Corresponding author
    1. Instituto de Astronomía, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Apdo. Postal 70–264, Ciudad Universitaria, México D.F. 04510, México
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  • C. Morisset,

    Corresponding author
    1. Instituto de Astronomía, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Apdo. Postal 70–264, Ciudad Universitaria, México D.F. 04510, México
    2. LUTH, Observatoire de Paris, CNRS, Université Paris Diderot, Place Jules Janssen, 92190 Meudon, France
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  • G. Stasińska,

    Corresponding author
    1. LUTH, Observatoire de Paris, CNRS, Université Paris Diderot, Place Jules Janssen, 92190 Meudon, France
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  • L. Binette

    1. Instituto de Astronomía, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Apdo. Postal 70–264, Ciudad Universitaria, México D.F. 04510, México
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E-mail: nahieflores@gmail.com (NF-F); chris.morisset@gmail.com (CM); grazyna.stasinska@obspm.fr (GS)

ABSTRACT

We revisit the question of the ionization of the diffuse medium in late-type galaxies, by studying NGC 891, the prototype of edge-on spiral galaxies. The most important challenge for the models considered so far was the observed increase of [O iii]/Hβ, [O ii]/Hβ and [N ii]/Hα with increasing distance to the galactic plane. We propose a scenario based on the expected population of massive OB stars and hot low-mass evolved stars (HOLMES) in this galaxy to explain this observational fact. In the framework of this scenario we construct a finely meshed grid of photoionization models. For each value of the galactic altitude z we look for the models which simultaneously fit the observed values of the [O iii]/Hβ, [O ii]/Hβ and [N ii]/Hα ratios. For each value of z we find a range of solutions which depends on the value of the oxygen abundance. The models which fit the observations indicate a systematic decrease of the electron density with increasing z. They become dominated by the HOLMES with increasing z only when restricting to solar oxygen abundance models, which argues that the metallicity above the galactic plane should be close to solar. They also indicate that N/O increases with increasing z.

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