Fast and slow paths to quiescence: ages and sizes of 400 quiescent galaxies from the LEGA-C survey

Po-Feng Wu, Arjen van der Wel, Rachel Bezanson, Anna Gallazzi, Camilla Pacifici, Caroline M. S. Straatman, Ivana Barišić, Eric F. Bell, Priscilla Chauke, Josha van Houdt, Marijn Franx, Adam Muzzin, David Sobral, Vivienne Wild

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

We analyze stellar age indicators (Dn4000 and EW(Hδ)) and sizes of 467 quiescent galaxies with M∗≥1010M⊙ at z∼0.7 drawn from DR2 of the LEGA-C survey. Interpreting index variations in terms of equivalent single stellar population age, we find that the median stellar population is younger for larger galaxies at fixed stellar mass. The effect is significant, yet small; the ages of the larger and the smaller subsets differ by only<500 Myr, much less than the age variation among individual galaxies (∼1.5 Gyr). At the same time, quiescent galaxies with the strongest Hδ absorption —those experienced recent and rapid quenching events — tend to be smaller than the average. These co-existing trends unify seemingly contradictory results in the literature; the complex correlations between size and age indicators revealed by our large sample of galaxies with high-quality spectra suggest that there are multiple evolutionary pathways to quiescence. Regardless of the specific physical mechanisms responsible for the cessation of star formation in massive galaxies, the large scatter in Dn4000 and EW(Hδ) immediately implies that galaxies follow a large variety in evolutionary pathways. On the one hand, we see evidence for a process that slowly shuts off star-formation and transforms star-forming galaxies to quiescent galaxies without necessarily changing their structures. On the other hand, there is likely a mechanism that rapidly quenches galaxies, an event that coincides with dramatic structural changes, producing small post-starburst galaxies.
Original languageEnglish
Article number37
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Volume868
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 19 Nov 2018

Keywords

  • Galaxies: evolution
  • Galaxies: formation
  • Galaxies: high-redshift
  • Galaxies: stellar content
  • Galaxies: structure

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