Testing massive star evolution, star-formation history, and feedback at low metallicity: Photometric analysis of OB stars in the SMC Wing

Fulmer, Leah M.; Gallagher, John S., III; Hamann, Wolf-Rainer; Oskinova, Lida M.; Ramachandran, Varsha

The supergiant ionized shell SMC-SGS 1 (DEM 167), located in the outer Wing of the Small Magellanic Cloud (SMC), resembles structures that originate from an energetic star-formation event and later stimulate star formation as they expand into the ambient medium. However, stellar populations within and surrounding SMC-SGS 1 tell a different story. We present a photometric study of the stellar population encompassed by SMC-SGS 1 in order to trace the history of this structure and its potential influence on star formation within the low-density, low-metallicity SMC Wing. For a stellar population that is physically associated with SMC-SGS 1, we combined near-ultraviolet (NUV) photometry from the Galaxy Evolution Explorer (GALEX) with archival optical (V-band) photometry from the ESO Danish 1.54m Telescope. Given their colors and luminosities, we estimated stellar ages and masses by matching observed photometry to theoretical stellar isochrone models. We find that the investigated region supports an active, extended star-formation event spanning ~ 25 - 40 Myr ago, as well as continued star formation into the present. Using a standard initial mass function (IMF), we infer a lower bound on the stellar mass from this period of ~ 3 104 M_sun, corresponding to a star-formation intensity of ~ 6 10-3 M_sun kpc-2 yr-1. The spatial and temporal distributions of young stars encompassed by SMC-SGS 1 imply a slow, consistent progression of star formation over millions of years. Ongoing star formation along the edge of and interior to SMC-SGS 1 suggests a combined stimulated and stochastic mode of star formation within the SMC Wing. A slow expansion of the shell within this low-density environment may preserve molecular clouds within the volume of the shell, leaving them to form stars even after nearby stellar feedback expels local gas and dust.

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This paper in ADS

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