Modeling Tracers of Young Stellar Population Age in Star-Forming Galaxies

Emily M. Levesque, Claus Leitherer

University of Colorado at Boulder; STScI

The young stellar population of a star-forming galaxy is the primary engine driving its radiative properties. As a result, the age of a galaxy's youngest generation of stars is critical for a detailed understanding of its star formation history, stellar content, and evolutionary state. Here we present predicted equivalent widths for the H-beta, H-alpha, and Br-gamma recombination lines as a function of stellar population age. The equivalent widths are produced by the latest generations of stellar evolutionary tracks and the Starburst99 stellar population synthesis code, and are the first to fully account for the combined effects of both nebular emission and continuum absorption produced by the synthetic stellar population. Our grid of model stellar populations spans six metallicities (0.001 < Z < 0.04), two treatments of star formation history (a 10^6 Mo instantaneous burst and a continuous star formation rate of 1 Mo per year), and two different treatments of initial rotation rate (v_rot = 0.0v_crit and v_rot = 0.4v_crit). We also investigate the effects of varying the initial mass function. Given constraints on galaxy metallicity, our predicted equivalent widths can be applied to observations of star-forming galaxies to approximate the age of their young stellar populations.

Reference: ApJ, Vol. 779, in press
Status: Manuscript has been accepted