par Babusiaux, Carine ;Gilmore, Gerard;Irwin, Mike
Référence Monthly notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 359, 3, page (985-992)
Publication Publié, 2005-05
Article révisé par les pairs
Résumé : The Sculptor dwarf spheroidal galaxy has a giant branch with a significant spread in colour, symptomatic of an intrinsic age-metallicity spread. We present here a detailed study of the Sculptor giant branch and horizontal branch (HB) morphology, combining new near-infrared photometry from the Cambridge Infrared Survey Instrument (CIRSI), with optical data from the European Southern Observatory Wide Field Imager. For a Sculptor-like old and generally metal-poor system, the position of red giant branch (RGB) and asymptotic giant branch (AGB) stars on the colour-magnitude diagram (CMD) is mainly metallicity dependent. The advantage of using optical-near-infrared colours is that the position of the RGB locus is much more sensitive to metallicity than with optical colours alone. In contrast the HB morphology is strongly dependent on both metallicity and age. Therefore a detailed study of both the RGB in optical-near-infrared colours and the HB can help break the age-metallicity degeneracy. Our measured photometric width of the Sculptor giant branch corresponds to a range in metallicity of 0.75 dex. We detect the RGB and AGB bumps in both the near-infrared and the optical luminosity functions, and derive from them a mean metallicity of [M/H] = -1.3 ± 0.1. From isochrone fitting we derive a mean metallicity of [Fe/H] = - 1.42 with a dispersion of 0.2 dex. These photometric estimators are for the first time consistent with individual metallicity measurements derived from spectroscopic observations. No spatial gradient is detected in the RGB morphology within a radius of 13 arcmin, twice the core radius. On the other hand, a significant gradient is observed in the HB morphology index, confirming the 'second parameter problem' present in this galaxy. These observations are consistent with an early extended period of star formation continuing in time for a few Gyr. © 2005 RAS.