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The Wolf–Rayet population of the nearby barred spiral galaxy NGC 5068 uncovered by the Very Large Telescope and Gemini


  • J. L. Bibby,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Astrophysics, American Museum of Natural History, 79th Street and Central Park West, New York, NY 10024-5192, USA
    2. Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Sheffield, Hicks Building, Hounsfield Road, Sheffield S3 7RH
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  • P. A. Crowther

    1. Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Sheffield, Hicks Building, Hounsfield Road, Sheffield S3 7RH
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We present a narrow-band Very Large Telescope/Focal Reduced Low-dispersion Spectrograph #1 imaging survey of the SAB(rs)cd spiral galaxy NGC 5068, located at a distance of 5.45 Mpc, from which 160 candidate Wolf–Rayet sources have been identified, of which 59 cases possess statistically significant λ4686 excesses. Follow-up Gemini Multi-Object Spectrograph spectroscopy of 64 candidates, representing 40 per cent of the complete photometric catalogue, confirms Wolf–Rayet signatures in 30 instances, corresponding to a 47 per cent success rate. 21 out of 22 statistically significant photometric sources are spectroscopically confirmed. Nebular emission detected in 30 per cent of the Wolf–Rayet candidates spectrally observed, which enable a re-assessment of the metallicity gradient in NGC 5068. A central metallicity of log (O/H) + 12 ∼ 8.74 is obtained, declining to 8.23 at R25. We combine our spectroscopy with archival Hα images of NGC 5068 to estimate a current star formation rate of inline image, and provide a catalogue of the 28 brightest H ii regions from our own continuum subtracted Hα images, of which ∼17 qualify as giant H ii regions. Spectroscopically, we identify 24 WC- and 18 WN-type Wolf–Rayet stars within 30 sources since emission-line fluxes indicate multiple Wolf–Rayet stars in several cases. We estimate an additional ∼66 Wolf–Rayet stars from the remaining photometric candidates, although sensitivity limits will lead to an incomplete census of visually faint WN stars, from which we estimate a global population of ∼170 Wolf–Rayet stars. Based on the Hα-derived O star population of NGC 5068 and N(WR)/N(O) ∼ 0.03, representative of the Large Magellanic Cloud, we would expect a larger Wolf–Rayet population of 270 stars. Finally, we have compared the spatial distribution of spectroscopically confirmed WN and WC stars with Sloan Digital Sky Survey derived supernovae, and find both WN and WC stars to be most consistent with the parent population of Type Ib supernovae.

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