Resolved stellar populations of thick disks in galaxies beyond the local group
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In this thesis I present an investigation into the presence, nature and origin of the thick disk component in late-type galaxies. I use ground-based wide-field observations to study two edge-on low-mass galaxies in the Local Universe: NGC 4244 and NGC 55. The large field-of-view of the ground-based data enables me to inspect the radial and vertical structure of each galaxy. The vertical profiles are studied up to larger distances fromthemid-plane than in any previous study and the presence of a second disk component beyond the thin disk with a larger scale height is revealed for both galaxies. The high-quality data allows me to carry out stellar population and metallicity studies for stars above and below the plane. Furthermore, direct comparisons with two simulated low-mass galaxies provided by the Preston group at the University of Central Lancashire are carried out. By putting the results for NGC 4244 and NGC 55 into context with the thick disk properties from these simulations and from the literature, the most likely thick disk formation scenarios can be pointed out. The bulgeless low-mass systemNGC 4244 lies at a distance of 4.4 Mpc and is studied using V- and I-band wide-field images taken with Suprime-Cam on the Subaru telescope, Hawaii. The extra-planar regions of NGC 4244 show the presence of a large population of Red Giant Branch (RGB) stars and some Asymptotic Giant Branch (AGB) stars. The best strategy to study the presence and structure of a thick disk component is to use the vertical diffuse light profiles in the crowded central regions and RGB star counts in the sparser and sky background dominated outskirts. The profiles show evidence for the presence of a sparsely populated second structural component beyond ∼ 2 kpc above and below the mid-plane. The profiles are fitted with a twodisk model, where each disk is approximated by an isothermal, self-gravitating sheet. A Bayesian model comparison confirms the need for a second disk component in the profile fit. Furthermore, the AGB profiles are inspected and are found to have a lower scale height than the RGB profiles. Metallicity studies of the RGB population in the thick disk component reveal that the metallicity is much lower than the solar metal-licity. Last, the scale length of the thin disk is quantified from the diffuse light radial profiles. At a distance of 1.9 Mpc the Magellanic type low-mass galaxy NGC 55 is studied using V- and I-band images from the VIsible MultiObject Spectrograph (VIMOS) in imaging mode on the Very Large Telescope (VLT, UT3) on Cerro Paranal, Chile. The very central regions of the galaxy are not covered by the VIMOS pointings so I use additional images from the Curtis-Schmidt telescope on Cerro Tololo. As for NGC 4244, I find that the RGB star count profiles extend to larger scale heights than the AGB profiles. The combined diffuse light + RGB profiles show evidence for a very prominent second disk component beyond ∼ 2 kpc above and below the plane. The metallicity studies of the RGB population show, that there is no trend in themetallicity with height above or below the plane. As for NGC 4244 the metallicity is significantly lower than the solar metallicity. Furthermore, the scale length of the thin and thick disk is derived from the radial profiles. The properties of thick disks in galaxies of all masses is studied by compiling the results fromobserved and simulated galaxies in the literature in addition to the results for NGC 4244, NGC 55 and the two simulated low-mass galaxies provided by the Preston group. By studying the similarities, differences and global trends with mass in the thick disk properties it is possible to confront the thick disk formation models. I find that none of the formation scenarios can be ruled out and even a hybrid scenario is possible.