Timing the r-process Enrichment of the Ultra-faint Dwarf Galaxy Reticulum II

Joshua D. Simon, Thomas M. Brown, Burçin Mutlu-Pakdil, Alexander P. Ji, Alex Drlica-Wagner, Roberto J. Avila, Clara E. Martínez-Vázquez, Ting S. Li, Eduardo Balbinot, Keith Bechtol, Anna Frebel, Marla Geha, Terese T. Hansen, David J. James, Andrew B. Pace, M. Aguena, O. Alves, F. Andrade-Oliveira, J. Annis, D. BaconE. Bertin, D. Brooks, D. L. Burke, A. Carnero Rosell, M. Carrasco Kind, J. Carretero, M. Costanzi, L. N. da Costa, J. De Vicente, S. Desai, P. Doel, S. Everett, I. Ferrero, J. Frieman, J. García-Bellido, M. Gatti, D. W. Gerdes, D. Gruen, R. A. Gruendl, J. Gschwend, G. Gutierrez, S. R. Hinton, D. L. Hollowood, K. Honscheid, K. Kuehn, N. Kuropatkin, J. L. Marshall, J. Mena-Fernández, R. Miquel, A. Palmese, F. Paz-Chinchón, M. E.S. Pereira, A. Pieres, A. A.Plazas Malagón, M. Raveri, M. Rodriguez-Monroy, E. Sanchez, B. Santiago, V. Scarpine, I. Sevilla-Noarbe, M. Smith, E. Suchyta, M. E.C. Swanson, G. Tarle, C. To, M. Vincenzi, N. Weaverdyck, R. D. Wilkinson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The ultra-faint dwarf galaxy Reticulum II (Ret II) exhibits a unique chemical evolution history, with 72 − 12 + 10 % of its stars strongly enhanced in r-process elements. We present deep Hubble Space Telescope photometry of Ret II and analyze its star formation history. As in other ultra-faint dwarfs, the color-magnitude diagram is best fit by a model consisting of two bursts of star formation. If we assume that the bursts were instantaneous, then the older burst occurred around the epoch of reionization, forming ∼80% of the stars in the galaxy, while the remainder of the stars formed ∼3 Gyr later. When the bursts are allowed to have nonzero durations, we obtain slightly better fits. The best-fitting model in this case consists of two bursts beginning before reionization, with approximately half the stars formed in a short (100 Myr) burst and the other half in a more extended period lasting 2.6 Gyr. Considering the full set of viable star formation history models, we find that 28% of the stars formed within 500 ± 200 Myr of the onset of star formation. The combination of the star formation history and the prevalence of r-process-enhanced stars demonstrates that the r-process elements in Ret II must have been synthesized early in its initial star-forming phase. We therefore constrain the delay time between the formation of the first stars in Ret II and the r-process nucleosynthesis to be less than 500 Myr. This measurement rules out an r-process source with a delay time of several Gyr or more, such as GW170817.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number43
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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