The origin of the enhanced metallicity of satellite galaxies

Y.M. Bahé, J. Schaye, R.A. Crain, I.G. McCarthy, R.G. Bower, T. Theuns, S.L. McGee, J.W. Trayford

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Observations of galaxies in the local Universe have shown that both the ionized gas and the stars of satellites are more metal-rich than of equally massive centrals. To gain insight into the connection between this metallicity enhancement and other differences between centrals and satellites, such as their star formation rates, gas content, and growth history, we study the metallicities of > 3600 galaxies with Mstar > 1010 M⊙ in the cosmological hydrodynamical EAGLE 100 Mpc 'Reference' simulation, including ~1500 in the vicinity of galaxy groups and clusters (M200 ≥ 1013M⊙). The simulation predicts excess gas and stellar metallicities in satellites consistent with observations, except for stellar metallicities at Mstar ≲ 1010.2M⊙ where the predicted excess is smaller than observed. The exact magnitude of the effect depends on galaxy selection, aperture, and on whether the metallicity is weighted by stellar mass or luminosity. The stellar metallicity excess in clusters is also sensitive to the efficiency scaling of star formation feedback.We identify stripping of low-metallicity gas from the galaxy outskirts, as well as suppression of metal-poor inflows towards the galaxy centre, as key drivers of the enhancement of gas metallicity. Stellar metallicities in satellites are higher than in the field as a direct consequence of the more metal-rich star-forming gas, whereas stripping of stars and suppressed stellar mass growth, as well as differences in accreted versus in situ star formation between satellites and the field, are of secondary importance. © 2016 The Authors. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Royal Astronomical Society.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)508-529
Number of pages22
JournalRoyal Astronomical Society. Monthly Notices
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 7 Oct 2016

Bibliographical note

Export Date: 15 August 2017


Correspondence Address: Bahé, Y.M.; Max-Planck-Institut für Astrophysik, Karl-Schwarzschild Str. 1, Germany; email:

Funding details: ERC, European Research Council

Funding text: RAC is a Royal Society University Research Fellow. IGM is an STFC Advanced Fellow. We thank the anonymous referee for a constructive report, Simon White for helpful discussions, Anna Pasquali for providing her data, and Lydia Heck for expert computational support with the Cosma machine in Durham, where part of the analysis presented here was performed. This work used the DiRAC Data Centric system at Durham University, operated by the Institute for Computational Cosmology on behalf of the STFC DiRAC HPC Facility ( This equipment was funded by BIS National E-infrastructure capital grant ST/K00042X/1, STFC capital grant ST/H008519/1, and STFC DiRAC Operations grant ST/K003267/1 and Durham University. DiRAC is part of the National E-Infrastructure. We also gratefully acknowledge PRACE for awarding the EAGLE project with access to the Curie facility based in France at Très Grand Centre de Calcul. Support was also received via the Interuniversity Attraction Poles Programme initiated by the Belgian Science Policy Office ([AP P7/08 CHARM]), the National Science Foundation under Grant No. NSF PHY11-25915, and the UK Science and Technology Facilities Council (grant numbers ST/F001166/1 and ST/I000976/1) via rolling and consolidated grants awarded to the ICC. The research was supported by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO), through VICI grant 639.043.409, and the European Research Council under the European Union's Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013)/ERC Grant agreement 278594-GasAroundGalaxies. All figures in this paper were produced using the ASTROPY (Astropy Collaboration 2013) and MATPLOTLIB (Hunter 2007) PYTHON packages.

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  • Galaxies: clusters: general
  • Galaxies: evolution
  • Galaxies: groups: general
  • Galaxies: stellar content
  • Methods: numerical


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