Low-mass Group Environments Have No Substantial Impact on the Circumgalactic Medium Metallicity

Stephanie K. Pointon, Glenn G. Kacprzak, Nikole M. Nielsen, Michael T. Murphy, Sowgat Muzahid, Christopher W. Churchill, Jane C. Charlton

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5 Scopus citations


We explore how environment affects the metallicity of the circumgalactic medium (CGM) using 13 low-mass galaxy groups (two to five galaxies) at zabs =0.25 identified near background quasars. Using quasar spectra from the Hubble Space Telescope/COS and from Keck/HIRES or the Very Large Telescope/UVES, we measure column densities of or determine limits on CGM absorption lines. We use a Markov Chain Monte Carlo approach with Cloudy to estimate metallicities of cool (T ∼ 104 K) CGM gas within groups and compare them to CGM metallicities of 47 isolated galaxies. Both group and isolated CGM metallicities span a wide range (-2 < [Si/H] < 0), where the mean group (-0.54 ± 0.22) and isolated (-0.77 ± 0.14) CGM metallicities are similar. Group and isolated environments have similar distributions of H I column densities as a function of impact parameter. However, contrary to isolated galaxies, we do not find an anticorrelation between H I column density and the nearest group galaxy impact parameter. We additionally divided the groups by member luminosity ratios (i.e., galaxy-galaxy and galaxy-dwarf groups). While there was no significant difference in their mean metallicities, a modest increase in sample size should allow one to statistically identify a higher CGM metallicity in galaxy-dwarf groups compared to galaxy-galaxy groups. We conclude that either environmental effects have not played an important role in the metallicity of the CGM at this stage and expect that this may only occur when galaxies are strongly interacting or merging or that some isolated galaxies have higher CGM metallicities due to past interactions. Thus, environment does not seem to be the cause of the CGM metallicity bimodality.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number216
JournalAstronomical Journal
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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