Investigating the origin of observed central dips in radial metallicity profiles

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Radial metallicity trends provide a key indicator of physical processes such as star formation and radial gas migration within a galaxy. Large integral field unit surveys allow for detailed studies of these radial variations, with recent observations detecting central dips in the metallicity, which may trace the impact of various evolutionary processes. However, the origin of these dips has not been conclusively determined, with suggestions that they may be diagnostic dependent. In this paper, we use the Sloan Digital Sky Survey IV Mapping Nearby Galaxies at Apache Point Observatory survey to investigate whether the observed dips represent genuine decreases in the central metallicity, or whether they could be an artefact of the diagnostic used. Using a sub-sample of 758 local star-forming galaxies at low inclinations, we investigate in detail the impact of using different strong line diagnostics on the shapes of the returned profiles, and the prevalence of dips. We find no clear evidence of the dips being caused by changing values of the ionization parameter within galaxies. To investigate physical causes, we explore both global and spatially resolved parameters, finding that galaxies exhibiting central dips in the O3N2 metallicity profile have on average lower H α equivalent width values out to R/Re∼1.5⁠, and higher values of DN(4000) in the central regions. We additionally find a higher prevalence of dips in galaxies with high stellar mass, and lower values of global specific star formation rate, suggesting a possible link to central quenching. Nevertheless, these results are dependent on the diagnostic used, suggesting caution should be taken when interpreting observed features in galaxy metallicity gradients.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)371-392
Number of pages22
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number1
Early online date12 Jan 2022
Publication statusPublished - 31 Mar 2022


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