Using the Eris zoom-in cosmological simulation of assembly of a Milky Way analog, we study chemical enrichment of stars due to accretion of metal-enriched gas from the interstellar medium during the Galaxy’s development. We consider metal-poor and old stars in both Galactic halo and bulge and make 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 solar mass per year and 10^-22 solar mass per year, respectively, at redshifts z < 3, but this accretion rate increases hundred-fold to about 10^-20 solar mass per year at higher redshifts due to increased gas density. Bulge and halo stars accrete similar amounts of metals at high redshifts as kinematically distinct bulge and halo are not yet developed at these redshifts and both sets of stars encounter similar metal distribution in the ISM on average. Accretion alone can enrich main-sequence stars up to [Fe/H] -2 in extreme cases.Median enrichment level due to accretion in these stars is about [Fe/H]~-6 to -5.Because accretion mostly takes place at high redshifts, it is alpha-enriched to [alpha/Fe]~0.5. We find that accretive metal enrichment is significant enough to affect the predicted metallicity distribution function of halo stars at [Fe/H] < -5.This suggests that attempts to infer the natal chemical environment of the most metal-poor stars from their observed enrichment today can be hindered due to metal accretion. Peculiar enrichment patterns such as those predicted to arise from pair-instability supernovae could help in disentangling natal and accreted metal content of stars.
S. Shen, G. Kulkarni, P. Madau, et. al.
Mon, 12 Dec 16
Comments: 11 pages, 6 figures, submitted to MNRAS. Comments are welcome