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Physics  2002 

Stellar population models of Lick indices with variable element abundance ratios

DOI: 10.1046/j.1365-8711.2003.06248.x

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We provide the whole set of Lick indices from CN1 to TiO2 of Simple Stellar Population models with, for the first time, variable element abundance ratios, [alpha/Fe]=0.0, 0.3, 0.5, [alpha/Ca]=-0.1, 0.0, 0.2, 0.5, and [alpha/N]=-0.5, 0.0. The models cover ages between 1 and 15 Gyr, metallicities between 1/200 and 3.5 solar. Our models are free from the intrinsic alpha/Fe bias that was imposed by the Milky Way template stars up to now, hence they reflect well-defined alpha/Fe ratios at all metallicities. The models are calibrated with Milky Way globular clusters for which metallicities and alpha/Fe ratios are known from independent spectroscopy of individual stars. The metallicities that we derive from the Lick indices Mgb and Fe5270 are in excellent agreement with the metallicity scale by Zinn & West (1984), and we show that the latter provides total metallicity rather than iron abundance. We can reproduce the relatively strong CN-absorption features CN1 and CN2 of galactic globular clusters with models in which nitrogen is enhanced by a factor three. An enhancement of carbon, instead, would lead to serious inconsistencies with the indices Mg1 and C24668. The calcium sensitive index Ca4227 of globular clusters is well matched by our models with [Ca/Fe]= 0.3, including the metal-rich Bulge clusters NGC 6528 and NGC 6553. From our alpha/Fe enhanced models we infer that the index [MgFe] defined by Gonzalez (1993) is quite independent of alpha/Fe, but still slightly decreases with increasing alpha/Fe. We define a slight modification of this index that is completely independent of alpha/Fe and serves best as a tracer of total metallicity. Searching for blue indices that give similar information as Mgb and Fe, we find that CN1 and Fe4383 may be best suited to estimate alpha/Fe ratios of objects at redshifts z~1. (Abridged)


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