The vertical metallicity gradient of the milky way disk: Transitions in [α/Fe] populations

Katharine J. Schlesinger, Jennifer A. Johnson, Constance M. Rockosi, Young Sun Lee, Timothy C. Beers, Paul Harding, Carlos Allende Prieto, Jonathan C. Bird, Ralph Schönrich, Brian Yanny, Donald P. Schneider, Benjamin A. Weaver, Jon Brinkmann

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27 Scopus citations


Using G dwarfs from the Sloan Extension for Galactic Understanding and Exploration (SEGUE) survey, we have determined the vertical metallicity gradient in the Milky Way's disk and examined how this gradient varies for different [α/Fe] subsamples. Our sample contains over 40,000 stars with low-resolution spectroscopy over 144 lines of sight. It also covers a significant disk volume, between 0.3 and 1.6 kpc from the Galactic plane, and allows us to examine the disk in situ, whereas previous analyses were more limited in scope. Furthermore, this work does not presuppose a disk structure, whether composed of a single complex population or distinct thin and thick disk components. We employ the SEGUE Stellar Parameter Pipeline to obtain estimates of stellar parameters, [Fe/H], and [α/Fe] and extract multiple volume-complete subsamples of approximately 1000 stars each. Based on SEGUE's target-selection algorithm, we adjust each subsample to determine an unbiased picture of disk chemistry; consequently, each individual star represents the properties of many. The metallicity gradient is -0.243 dex kpc-1 for the entire sample, which we compare to various literature results. This gradient stems from the different [α/Fe] populations inhabiting different ranges of height above the Galactic plane. Each [α/Fe] subsample shows little change in median [Fe/H] with height. If we associate [α/Fe] with age, the negligible gradients of our [α/Fe] subsamples suggest that stars formed in different epochs exhibit comparable vertical structure, implying similar star formation processes and evolution.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number112
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 20 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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