Differences in carbon and nitrogen abundances between field and cluster early-type galaxies

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Central line-strength indices were measured in the blue spectral region for a sample of 98 early-type galaxies in different environments. For most indices (Mg b and [Fe] in particular), elliptical galaxies in rich clusters and in low-density regions follow the same index-sigma relations. However, striking spectral differences between field elliptical galaxies and their counterparts in the central region of the Coma Cluster are found for the first time, with galaxies in the denser environment showing significantly lower C4668 and CN2 absorption strengths. The most convincing interpretation of these results is that they represent a difference in abundance ratios arising from distinct star formation and chemical-enrichment histories of galaxies in different environments. A scenario in which elliptical galaxies in clusters are fully assembled at earlier stages than their low-density counterparts is discussed.
© 2003. The American Astronomical Society. We are indebted to R. Guzmán for providing us with a catalog of dwarf elliptical galaxies in the Coma Cluster. The WHT is operated on the island of La Palma by the Royal Greenwich Observatory at the Observatorio del Roque de los Muchachos of the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias. The Calar Alto Observatory is operated jointly by the Max-Planck-Institute für Astronomie, Heidelberg, and the Spanish Comisión Nacional de Astronomía. This work was supported by the Spanish research project AYA2000-977.
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