Planetary nebulae and H II regions in the spiral galaxy NGC 300: Clues on the evolution of abundance gradients and on AGB nucleosynthesis

Stasińska, G.; Peña, M.; Bresolin, F. and Tsamis, Y.G. (2013). Planetary nebulae and H II regions in the spiral galaxy NGC 300: Clues on the evolution of abundance gradients and on AGB nucleosynthesis. Astronomy & Astrophysics, 552, article no. A12.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1051/0004-6361/201220345

Abstract

We have obtained deep spectra of 26 planetary nebulae (PNe) and 9 compact H II regions in the nearby spiral galaxy NGC 300, and analyzed them together with those of the giant H II regions previously observed. We have determined the physical properties of all these objects and their He, N, O, Ne, S and Ar abundances in a consistent way. We find that, globally, compact H II regions have abundance ratios similar to those of giant H II regions, while PNe have systematically larger N/O ratios and similar Ne/O and Ar/O ratios. We demonstrate that the nitrogen enhancement in PNe cannot be only due to second dredge-up in the progenitor stars, since their initial masses are around 2–2.5 M⊙. An extra mixing process is required, perhaps driven by stellar rotation. Concerning the radial abundance distribution, PNe behave differently from H II regions: in the central part of the galaxy their average O/H abundance ratio is 0.15 dex smaller. Their abundance dispersion at any galactocentric radius is significantly larger than that shown by H II regions and many of them have O/H values higher than H II regions at the same galactocentric distance. This suggests that not only nitrogen, but also oxygen is affected by nucleosynthesis in the PN progenitors, by an amount which depends at least on the stellar rotation velocity and possibly other parameters. The formal O/H, Ne/H and Ar/He abundance gradients from PNe are significantly shallower than those from H II regions. We argue that this indicates a steepening of the metallicity gradient in NGC 300 during the last Gyr, rather than an effect of radial stellar motions, although the large observed dispersion makes this conclusion only tentative.

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