More fundamental than the fundamental metallicity relation. The effect of the stellar metallicity on the gas-phase mass-metallicity and gravitational potential-metallicity relations

Sánchez-Menguiano, Laura; Sánchez, Sebastián F.; Sánchez Almeida, Jorge; Muñoz-Tuñón, Casiana
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Astronomy and Astrophysics

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Context One of the most fundamental scaling relations in galaxies is observed between metallicity and stellar mass - the mass-metallicity relation (MZR) - although recently a stronger dependence of the gas-phase metallicity with the galactic gravitational potential (ΦZR) has been reported. Further dependences of metallicity on other galaxy properties have been revealed, with the star formation rate (SFR) being one of the most studied and debated secondary parameters in the relation (the so-called fundamental metallicity relation).
Aims: In this work we explore the dependence of the gas-phase metallicity residuals from the MZR and ΦZR on different galaxy properties in the search for the most fundamental scaling relation in galaxies.
Methods: We applied a random forest regressor algorithm on a sample of 3430 nearby star-forming galaxies from the SDSS-IV MaNGA survey. Using this technique, we explored the effect of 147 additional parameters on the global oxygen abundance residuals obtained after subtracting the MZR. Alternatively, we followed a similar approach with the metallicity residuals from the ΦZR.
Results: The stellar metallicity of the galaxy is revealed as the secondary parameter in both the MZR and the ΦZR, ahead of the SFR. This parameter reduces the scatter in the relations ∼10 − 15%. We find the 3D relation between gravitational potential, gas metallicity, and stellar metallicity to be the most fundamental metallicity relation observed in galaxies.