Chemical enrichment of stars due to accretion from the ISM during the Galaxy's assembly

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Shen, S 
Kulkarni, G 
Madau, P 
Mayer, L 

Using the Eris zoom-in cosmological simulation of assembly of a Milky Way analogue, we study the chemical enrichment of stars due to accretion of metal-enriched gas from the interstellar medium (ISM) during the Galaxy’s development. We consider metal-poor and old stars in the Galactic halo and bulge through the use of stellar orbits, gas density and metallicity distributions in Eris. Assuming spherically symmetric Bondi–Hoyle accretion, we find that halo and bulge stars accrete metals at the rate of about 10−24 and 10−22 M yr−1, respectively, at redshifts $z\lesssim3,butthisaccretionrateincreasesroughlyahundredfoldtoabout10^{−20}$ M yr−1 at higher redshifts due to increased gas density. Bulge and halo stars accrete similar amounts of metals at high redshifts when kinematically distinct bulge and halo have not yet developed, and both sets of stars encounter a similar metal distribution in the ISM. Accretion alone can enrich main-sequence stars up to [Fe/H] ~ −2 in extreme cases, with the median enrichment level due to accretion of about [Fe/H] ~ −6 to −5. Because accretion mostly takes place at high redshifts, it is α-enriched to [α/Fe] ~ 0.5. We find that accretive metal enrichment is sufficient to affect the predicted metallicity distribution function of halo stars at [Fe/H] < −5. This can hinder attempts to infer natal chemical environment of metal-poor stars from their observed enrichment. Peculiar enrichment patterns such as those predicted to arise from pair-instability supernovae could help in disentangling the natal and accreted metal content of stars.

accretion, accretion discs, stars: abundances, stars: chemically peculiar, stars: Population III, Galaxy: abundances, Galaxy: stellar content
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Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
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Oxford University Press
European Research Council (638707)
European Research Council (320596)
STFC (ST/M007073/1)
Science and Technology Facilities Council (ST/P002315/1)
Science and Technology Facilities Council (ST/R002452/1)
SS gratefully acknowledges support by Science and Technology Facilities Council and by European Research Council (ERC) Starting Grant 638707 ‘Black holes and their host galaxies: coevolution across cosmic time’. GK and SS acknowledge support from ERC Advanced Grant 320596 ‘The Emergence of Structure During the Epoch of Reionization’. Support for this work was provided by National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) through grant HST-AR-13904.001-A (PM). PM also acknowledges a NASA contract supporting the Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telescope-Extragalactic Potential Observations (WFIRSTEXPO) Science Investigation Team (15-WFIRST15-0004), admin istered by Goddard Space Flight Center, and thanks the Prefecture ´ of the Ile-de-France Region for the award of a Blaise Pascal International Research Chair, managed by the Fondation de l’Ecole Normale Superieure. This work used the Distributed research utilising Advanced Computing (DiRAC)/Darwin Supercomputer hosted by the University of Cambridge High Performance Computing Service (, provided by Dell Inc. using Strategic Research Infrastructure Funding from the Higher Education Funding Council for England and funding from the Science and Technology Facilities Council.