We present new measurements of the gas-phase C/O abundance ratio in both the northwest (NW) and southeast (SE) components of the extremely metal-poor dwarf irregular galaxy I Zw 18, based on ultraviolet spectroscopy of the two H II regions using the Faint Object Spectrograph on the Hubble Space Telescope. We determine values of log C/O = -0.63 ± 0.10 for the NW component and log C/O = -0.56 ± 0.09 for the SE component. In comparison, log C/O = -0.37 in the Sun, while log C/O = -0.85 ± 0.07 in the three most metal-poor irregular galaxies measured by Garnett et al. Our measurements show that C/O in I Zw 18 is significantly higher than in other comparably metal-poor irregular galaxies and above predictions for the expected C/O from massive star nucleosynthesis. These results suggest that carbon in I Zw 18 has been enhanced by an earlier population of lower-mass carbon-producing stars; this idea is supported by stellar photometry of I Zw 18 and its companion, which demonstrate that the current bursts of massive stars were not the first. Despite its very low metallicity, it is likely that I Zw 18 is not a "primeval" galaxy.
- Galaxies: ISM
- Galaxies: abundances
- Galaxies: evolution
- Galaxies: individual: I Zw 18
- Galaxies: irregular