Constraining gas metal mixing strength in simulations using observations of the Milky Way's disc

Sarrato-Alós, J.; Brook, C.; Di Cintio, A.
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Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

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This work explores the mixing rate of metals in the interstellar medium (ISM), comparing observational constraints from our solar neighbourhood to high resolution cosmological hydrodynamical simulations of Milky Way (MW)-like galaxies. The mixing rate, described by the coefficient C, is varied in simulations between 0 and 0.05, with resultant simulated galaxies compared to observations of metallicity dispersion in young star clusters, H II regions and neutral gas in the disc of the MW. A value of C between 0.003125 and 0.0125 is found to self-consistently match a range of observables, with a best estimate of C = 0.0064 ± 0.0004. We demonstrate that the relationship between metal dispersion in young stars, H II regions and neutral gas, versus the coefficient C, can be described by a power law. These constrained mixing rates infer a comparatively well-mixed ISM in the solar neighbourhood, at odds with some recent observations that have reported a highly inhomogeneous ISM. The degree of mixing suggested by this work is lower than what often employed in many hydrodynamical simulations. Our results have implications for studying the metallicity distribution of stars as well as of gas in the interstellar and circum-galactic media.
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