From starburst to quiescence: post-starburst galaxies and their large-scale clustering over cosmic time

Aaron Wilkinson*, Omar Almaini, Vivienne Wild, David Maltby, William G Hartley, Chris Simpson, Kate Rowlands

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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We present the first study of the large-scale clustering of post-starburst (PSB) galaxies in the high redshift Universe (0.5 < z < 3.0). We select ∼4000 PSB galaxies photometrically, the largest high-redshift sample of this kind, from two deep large-scale near-infrared surveys: the UKIDSS Ultra Deep Survey (UDS) DR11 and the Cosmic Evolution Survey (COSMOS). Using angular cross-correlation techniques, we estimate the halo masses for this large sample of PSB galaxies and compare them with quiescent and star-forming galaxies selected in the same fields. We find that low-mass, low-redshift (0.5 < z < 1.0) PSB galaxies preferentially reside in very high-mass dark matter haloes (Mhalo > 1014 M), suggesting they are likely to be infalling satellite galaxies in cluster-like environments. High-mass PSB galaxies are more weakly clustered at low redshifts, but they reside in higher mass haloes with increasing look-back time, suggesting strong redshift-dependent halo downsizing. These key results are consistent with previous results suggesting that two main channels are responsible for the rapid quenching of galaxies. While high-redshift (z > 1) galaxies appear to be quenched by secular feedback mechanisms, processes associated with dense environments are likely to be the key driver of rapid quenching in the low-redshift Universe (z < 1). Finally, we show that the clustering of photometrically selected PSBs are consistent with them being direct descendants of highly dust-enshrouded sub-millimetre galaxies (SMGs), providing tantalising evidence for the oft-speculated evolutionary pathway from starburst to quiescence.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4533–4550
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number3
Early online date15 Apr 2021
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2021


  • Cosmolog: large-scale structure
  • Galaxies: Formation
  • Galaxies: Evolution
  • Galaxies: High Redshift
  • Galaxies: Starburst


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