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      On The Cosmic Origins Of Carbon And Nitrogen

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          Abstract

          We analyze the behavior of N/O and C/O abundance ratios as a function of metallicity as gauged by O/H in large, extant Galactic and extragalactic H II region abundance samples. Numerical chemical evolution models are computed using published stellar yields implied by comparing analytical models to the observations. Our results suggest that carbon and nitrogen originate from separate production sites and are decoupled from one another. Massive stars (M>8M_sun) dominate the production of carbon, while intermediate-mass stars between 4 and 8 solar masses, with a characteristic ejection delay time of 250 Myr after their formation, dominate nitrogen production. Carbon production is positively sensitive to metallicity through mass loss processes in massive stars and has a pseudo-secondary character. Nitrogen production in intermediate mass stars is primary at low metallicity, but clearly secondary (and perhaps tertiary) when 12+log(O/H)>8.3. The observed flat behavior of N/O versus O/H in metal-poor galaxies is explained by invoking low star formation rates which flatten the age-metallicity relation and thereby allow N/O to rise to observed levels at low metallicities. The observed scatter and distribution of data points for N/O challenge the popular idea that intermittent polluting by oxygen from massive stars is occurring following star bursts. The effect of inflow of gas into galactic systems on secondary production of nitrogen from carbon may introduce some scatter into N/O ratios at high metallicities.

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          Author and article information

          Journal
          20 April 2000
          Article
          10.1086/309471
          astro-ph/0004299
          Custom metadata
          Astrophys.J.541:660-674,2000
          36 manuscript pages, 10 figures. To appear in The Astrophysical Journal, v. 540, September, 2000
          astro-ph

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