DEVILS: cosmic evolution of SED-derived metallicities and their connection to star formation histories

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Gas-phase metallicities of galaxies are typically measured through auroral or nebular emission lines, but metallicity also leaves an imprint on the overall spectral energy distribution (SED) of a galaxy and can be estimated through SED fitting. We use the PROSPECT SED fitting code with a flexible parametric star formation history and an evolving metallicity history to self-consistently measure metallicities, stellar mass, and other galaxy properties for similar to 90 000 galaxies from the Deep Extragalactic VIsible Legacy Survey (DEVILS) and Galaxy and Mass Assembly (GAMA) survey. We use these to trace the evolution of the mass-metallicity relation (MZR) and show that the MZR only evolves in normalisation by similar to 0.1 dex at stellar mass M-circle dot = 10(10.5) M-circle dot. We find no difference in the MZR between galaxies with and without SED evidence of active galactic nuclei emission at low redshifts (z < 0.3). Our results suggest an anti-correlation between metallicity and star formation activity at fixed stellar mass for galaxies with M-circle dot > 10(10.5) M-circle dot for z < 0.3. Using the star formation histories extracted using PROSPECT we explore higher-order correlations of the MZR with properties of the star formation history including age, width, and shape. We find that at a given stellar mass, galaxies with higher metallicities formed most of their mass over shorter timescales, and before their peak star formation rate. This work highlights the value of exploring the connection of a galaxy's current gas-phase metallicity to its star formation history in order to understand the physical processes shaping the MZR.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6035-6059
Number of pages25
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2022


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