Published online by Cambridge University Press: 10 November 2010
Galactic bulges probably formed in starbursts such as those studied during this conference. We study the population contents and spatial structure of bulges to learn on the star formation history of these systems. From broadband optical CCD images we derive mean colours and colour gradients for a complete sample of ∼ 40 bulges of edge-on galaxies. After excluding objects with dust, the colours trace age and metallicity of the stellar populations. Metallicities inferred from the colours seldom reach solar values. This result is consistent with recent metallicity estimates for the Milky Way (MW) Bulge derived from spectroscopy of K giants. Colour profiles have negative slopes, i.e. colours become bluer outward. The derived gradients are similar to those observed in elliptical galaxies. Gradients of more luminous bulges are steeper than those of smaller bulges.
Our notions on the stellar content of spiral bulges are largely derived from studies of a few nearby cases, notably our own MW Bulge. We know that the spectra of bulges often resemble more the strong-lined spectra of elliptical nuclei than those of metal-poor halo stars (Whitford 1978). It is also known that the MW Bulge, at Baade's window (BW) at least, contains stars of very high metallicity (Rich 1988).