The ACS Nearby Galaxy Survey Treasury. VIII. The global star formation histories of 60 dwarf galaxies in the local volume

Daniel R. Weisz, Julianne J. Dalcanton, Benjamin F. Williams, Karoline M. Gilbert, Evan D. Skillman, Anil C. Seth, Andrew E. Dolphin, Kristen B.W. McQuinn, Stephanie M. Gogarten, Jon Holtzman, Keith Rosema, Andrew Cole, Igor D. Karachentsev, Dennis Zaritsky

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298 Scopus citations


We present uniformly measured star formation histories (SFHs) of 60 nearby (D ≲ 4Mpc) dwarf galaxies based on color-magnitude diagrams of resolved stellar populations from images taken with the Hubble Space Telescope and analyzed as part of the ACS Nearby Galaxy Survey Treasury program (ANGST). This volume-limited sample contains 12 dwarf spheroidal (dSph)/dwarf elliptical (dE), 5 dwarf spiral, 28 dwarf irregular (dI), 12 dSph/dI (transition), and 3 tidal dwarf galaxies. The sample spans a range of ∼10mag in MB and covers a wide range of environments, from highly interacting to truly isolated. From the best-fit SFHs, we find three significant results for dwarf galaxies in the ANGST volume: (1) the majority of dwarf galaxies formed the bulk of their mass prior to z ∼1, regardless of current morphological type; (2) the mean SFHs of dIs, transition dwarf galaxies (dTrans), and dSphs are similar over most of cosmic time, and only begin to diverge a fewGyr ago, with the clearest differences between the three appearing during the most recent 1Gyr; and (3) the SFHs are complex and the mean values are inconsistent with simple SFH models, e.g., single bursts, constant star formation rates (SFRs), or smooth, exponentially declining SFRs. The mean SFHs show clear divergence from the cosmic SFH at z ≲ 0.7, which could be evidence that low-mass systems have experienced delayed star formation relative to more massive galaxies. The sample shows a strong density-morphology relationship, such that the dSphs in the sample are less isolated than the dIs. We find that the transition from a gas-rich to gas-poor galaxy cannot be solely due to internal mechanisms such as stellar feedback, and instead is likely the result of external mechanisms, e.g., ram pressure and tidal stripping and tidal forces. In terms of their environments, SFHs, and gas fractions, the majority of the dTrans appear to be low-mass dIs that simply lack Hα emission, similar to Local Group (LG) dTrans DDO 210. However, a handful of dTrans have remarkably low gas fractions, suggesting that they have nearly exhausted their gas supply, analogous to LG dTrans such as Phoenix. Finally, we have also included extensive exploration of uncertainties in the SFH recovery method, including the optimization of time resolution, the effects of photometric depth, and impact of systematic uncertainties due to the limitations in current stellar evolution models.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number5
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Sep 20 2011
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


  • Hertzsprung Russell and CM diagrams
  • galaxies: dwarf
  • galaxies: evolution
  • galaxies: star formation
  • galaxies: stellar content


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