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  • Cited by 14
  • Print publication year: 2004
  • Online publication date: August 2009

Element Abundances In Nearby Galaxies


In these lectures I present a highly opinionated review of the observed patterns of metallicity and element abundance ratios in nearby spiral, irregular, and dwarf elliptical galaxies, with connection to a number of astrophysical issues associated with chemical evolution. I also discuss some of the observational and theoretical issues associated with measuring abundances in H II regions and gas and stellar surface densities in disk galaxies. Finally, I will outline a few open questions that deserve attention in future investigations.


The measurement of element abundances in galaxies other than our own has a roughly forty-year history, beginning with early attempts to measure helium abundances in giant H II regions in the Magellanic Clouds and M33 (Aller & Faulkner 1962, Mathis 1962) and pioneering studies of heavy element abundances from forbidden lines in extragalactic H II regions (e.g. Peimbert & Spinrad 1970, Searle 1971, Searle & Sargent 1972). Since then this field has grown tremendously, with high quality oxygen abundance data in some 40 nearby spiral galaxies and more than 100 irregular and compact dwarf galaxies. The amount of data for other elements (C, N, Ne, S, and Ar) has also improved tremendously, thanks largely to improvements in visible-wavelength detectors and the launching of spacecraft observatories, such as IUE, HST, and ISO, which have opened up the UV and IR spectral regions for spectroscopy.

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