We have taken deep images of an outlying field in the Local Group dwarf irregular galaxy IC 1613 with the WFPC2 aboard the Hubble Space Telescope in the standard broadband F555W (V, 8 orbits) and F814W (I, 16 orbits) filters. The photometry reaches to V = 27.7 (MV = +3.4) and I = 27.1 (M I = +2.8) at the 50% completeness level, the deepest to date for an isolated dwarf irregular galaxy. We analyze the resulting color-magnitude diagram (CMD) and compare it with CMDs created from theoretical stellar models using three different methods to derive a star formation history (SFH) as well as constrain the chemical evolution for IC 1613. All three methods find an enhanced star formation rate (SFR), at roughly the same magnitude (factor of 3), over roughly the same period (from 3 to 6 Gyr ago). Additionally, all three methods were driven to similar age-metallicity relationships (AMR) that show an increase from [Fe/H] ≈ -1.3 at earliest times to [Fe/H] ≈ -0.7 at present. Good agreement is found between the AMR which is derived from the CMD analysis and that which can be inferred from the derived SFH at all but the earliest ages. The agreement between the three models and the self-consistency of the derived chemical enrichment history support the reality of the derived SFH of IC 1613 and, more generally, are supportive of the practice of constructing galaxy SFHs from CMDs. A comparison of the newly observed outer field with an earlier studied central field of IC 1613 shows that the SFR in the outer field has been significantly depressed during the last Gyr. This implies that the optical scale length of the galaxy has been decreasing with time and that comparison of galaxies at intermediate redshift with present-day galaxies should take this effect into account. Comparing the CMD of the outer field of IC 1613 with CMDs of Milky Way dSph companions, we find strong similarities between IC 1613 and the more distant dSph companions (Carina, Fornax, Leo I, and Leo II) in that all are dominated by star formation at intermediate ages. In particular, the SFH and AMR for IC 1613 and Leo I are indistinguishable. This implies that dIrr galaxies cannot be distinguished from dSphs by their intermediate-age stellar populations. This type of a SFH may also be evidence for slower or suppressed early star formation in dwarf galaxies due to photoionization after the reionization of the universe by background radiation. Assuming that IC 1613 is typical of a dIrr evolving in isolation, since most of the star formation occurs at intermediate ages, these dwarf systems cannot be responsible for the fast chemical enrichment of the intergalactic medium that is seen at high redshift. There is no evidence for any large-amplitude bursts of star formation in IC 1613, and we find it highly unlikely that analogs of IC 1613 have contributed to the excess of faint blue galaxies in existing galaxy redshift surveys.
- Galaxies: dwarf
- Galaxies: individual (IC 1613)
- Galaxies: irregular
- Galaxies: stellar content
- Local Group