Astrophysics and Space Science

, Volume 267, Issue 1, pp 273-281

First online:

The Stellar Ages of Elliptical Galaxies

  • S.M. FaberAffiliated withUCO/Lick Observatory, UC Santa Cruz
  • , S.C. TragerAffiliated withUCO/Lick Observatory, UC Santa Cruz
  • , J.J. GonzalezAffiliated withInstituto de Astronomia, UNAM
  • , Guy WortheyAffiliated withDept. of Astronomy, Univ. of Michigan

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Integrated broad-band colors and metallic lines cannot discriminate clearly between the effects of age and Z in old stellar populations. Such data are more sensitive to Z than to age. The Hβ feature provides a way to break this degeneracy. New measurements indicate that the mean stellar ages of typical E galaxy nuclei are fairly young, ranging from 2 to ∼12 Gyr. The outer parts of E galaxies are both older and more metal-poor than nuclei, consistent with the formation of E galaxies via mergers and starbursts. Age effects contribute strongly to the classic color-line strength sequence of E galaxies.