The stellar metallicity gradients in galaxy discs in a cosmological scenario
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Context. The stellar metallicity gradients of disc galaxies provide information on disc assembly, star formation processes, and chemical evolution. They also might store information on dynamical processes that could affect the distribution of chemical elements in the gas phase and the stellar components. Understanding their joint effects within a hierarchical clustering scenario is of paramount importance. Aims. We studied the stellar metallicity gradients of simulated discs in a cosmological simulation. We explored the dependence of the stellar metallicity gradients on stellar age and on the size and mass of the stellar discs. Methods. We used a catalogue of galaxies with disc components selected from a cosmological hydrodynamical simulation performed including a physically motivated supernova feedback and chemical evolution. Disc components were defined based on angular momentum and binding energy criteria. The metallicity profiles were estimated for stars with different ages. We confront our numerical findings with results from the Calar Alto Legacy Integral Field Area (CALIFA) Survey. Results. The simulated stellar discs are found to have metallicity profiles with slopes in global agreement with observations. Low stellar mass galaxies tend to have a larger variety of metallicity slopes. When normalized by the half-mass radius, the stellar metallicity gradients do not show any dependence and the dispersion increases significantly, regardless of the galaxy mass. Galaxies with stellar masses of around 10(10) M-circle dot show steeper negative metallicity gradients. The stellar metallicity gradients correlate with the half-mass radius. However, the correlation signal is not present when they are normalized by the half-mass radius. Stellar discs with positive age gradients are detected to have negative and positive metallicity gradients, depending on the relative importance of recent star formation activity in the central regions. Conclusions. Our results suggest that inside-out formation is the main process responsible for the metallicity and age profiles. The large dispersions in the metallicity gradients as a function of stellar mass could be ascribed to the effects of dynamical processes such as mergers, interactions and/or migration as well as those regulating the conversion of gas into stars. The fingerprints of the inside-out formation seem better preserved by the stellar metallicity gradients as a function of the half-mass radius.