The VMC survey – XIV. First results on the look-back time star formation rate tomography of the Small Magellanic Cloud

Stefano Rubele*, Léo Girardi, Leandro Kerber, Maria Rosa L. Cioni, Andrés E. Piatti, Simone Zaggia, Kenji Bekki, Alessandro Bressan, Gisella Clementini, Richard De Grijs, Jim P. Emerson, Martin A.T. Groenewegen, Valentin D. Ivanov, Marcella Marconi, Paola Marigo, Maria Ida Moretti, Vincenzo Ripepi, Smitha Subramanian, Benjamin L. Tatton, Jacco T. Van Loon

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

90 Citations (Scopus)


We analyse deep images from the VISTA survey of the Magellanic Clouds in the YJKs filters, covering 14 deg2 (10 tiles), split into 120 subregions, and comprising the main body and Wing of the Small Magellanic Cloud (SMC). We apply a colour-magnitude diagram reconstruction method that returns their best-fitting star formation rate SFR(t), age-metallicity relation (AMR), distance and mean reddening, together with 68 per cent confidence intervals. The distance data can be approximated by a plane tilted in the East-West direction with a mean inclination of 39°, although deviations of up to ±3 kpc suggest a distorted and warped disc. After assigning to every observed star a probability of belonging to a given age-metallicity interval, we build high-resolution population maps. These dramatically reveal the flocculent nature of the young star-forming regions and the nearly smooth features traced by older stellar generations. They document the formation of the SMC Wing at ages <0.2 Gyr and the peak of star formation in the SMC Bar at ~40 Myr. We clearly detect periods of enhanced star formation at 1.5 and 5 Gyr. The former is possibly related to a new feature found in the AMR, which suggests ingestion of metal-poor gas at ages slightly larger than 1 Gyr. The latter constitutes a major period of stellar mass formation. We confirm that the SFR(t) was moderately low at even older ages.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)639-661
Number of pages23
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Hertzsprung
  • Russell and colour
  • magnitude diagrams
  • Magellanic Clouds


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