Constraining the escape fraction of ionizing photons from H ii regions within NGC 300: A concept paper
Astronomy and Astrophysics
Using broadband photometry from the Hubble Space Telescope in combination with Very Large Telescope narrowband Halpha observations of the nearby spiral galaxy NGC 300, we explore a method for estimating the escape fractions of hydrogen-ionizing photons from HII regions within this galaxy. Our goal in this concept study is to evaluate the spectral types of the most massive stars using the broadband data and estimating their ionizing photon output with the help of stellar atmosphere models. A
... phere models. A comparison with the Halpha flux that gives the amount of ionized gas in the HII region provides a measure of the escape fraction of ionizing photons from that region. We performed some tests with a number of synthetic young clusters with varying parameters to assess the reliability of the method. However, we found that the derived stellar spectral types and consequently the expected ionizing photon luminosity of a region is highly uncertain. The tests also show that on one hand we tended to overestimate the integrated photon output of a region for young ages and low numbers of stars, and on the other hand we mostly underestimated the combined ionizing luminosity for a large stellar number and older cluster ages. We conclude that the proposed method of using stellar broadband photometry to infer the leakage of ionizing photons from HII regions is highly uncertain and dominated by the errors of the resulting stellar spectral types. Therefore this method is not suitable. Stellar spectra are needed to reliably determine the stellar types and escape fractions. Studies to this end have been carried out for the Magellanic Clouds.