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Late-Stage Galaxy Mergers in Cosmos to z ~ 1

Lackner, C. N. and Silverman, J. D. and Salvato, M. and Kampczyk, P. and Kartaltepe, J. S. and Sanders, D. and Capak, P. and Civano, F. and Halliday, C. and Ilbert, O. and Jahnke, K. and Koekemoer, A. M. and Lee, N. and Le Fèvre, O. and Liu, C. T. and Scoville, N. and Sheth, K. and Toft, S. (2014) Late-Stage Galaxy Mergers in Cosmos to z ~ 1. Astronomical Journal, 148 (6). Art. No. 137. ISSN 0004-6256. doi:10.1088/0004-6256/148/6/137.

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The role of major mergers in galaxy and black hole formation is not well-constrained. To help address this, we develop an automated method to identify late-stage galaxy mergers before coalescence of the galactic cores. The resulting sample of mergers is distinct from those obtained using pair-finding and morphological indicators. Our method relies on median-filtering of high-resolution images to distinguish two concentrated galaxy nuclei at small separations. This method does not rely on low surface brightness features to identify mergers, and is therefore reliable to high redshift. Using mock images, we derive statistical contamination and incompleteness corrections for the fraction of late-stage mergers. The mock images show that our method returns an uncontaminated (<10%) sample of mergers with projected separations between 2.2 and 8 kpc out to z ~ 1. We apply our new method to a magnitude-limited (m_(FW 814) < 23) sample of 44,164 galaxies from the COSMOS HST/ACS catalog. Using a mass-complete sample with log M_* M_⊙ > 10.6 and 0.25 < z ⩽ 1.00, we find ~5% of systems are late-stage mergers. Correcting for incompleteness and contamination, the fractional merger rate increases strongly with redshift as Rmerge μ (1 + z)^(3.8±0.9), in agreement both with earlier studies and with dark matter halo merger rates. Separating the sample into star-forming and quiescent galaxies shows that the merger rate for star-forming galaxies increases strongly with redshift, (1 + z)^(4.5±1.3), while the merger rate for quiescent galaxies is consistent with no evolution, (1 + z)^(1.1±1.2). The merger rate also becomes steeper with decreasing stellar mass. Limiting our sample to galaxies with spectroscopic redshifts from zCOSMOS, we find that the star formation rates and X-ray selected active galactic nucleus (AGN) activity in likely late-stage mergers are higher by factors of ~2 relative to those of a control sample. Combining our sample with more widely separated pairs, we find that 8 ± 5% of star formation and 20 ± 8% of AGN activity are triggered by close encounters (<143 kpc) or mergers, providing additional evidence that major mergers are not the only channels for star formation and black hole growth.

Item Type:Article
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription Paper
Silverman, J. D.0000-0002-0000-6977
Salvato, M.0000-0001-7116-9303
Kartaltepe, J. S.0000-0001-9187-3605
Sanders, D.0000-0002-1233-9998
Capak, P.0000-0003-3578-6843
Civano, F.0000-0002-2115-1137
Ilbert, O.0000-0002-7303-4397
Jahnke, K.0000-0003-3804-2137
Koekemoer, A. M.0000-0002-6610-2048
Le Fèvre, O.0000-0001-5891-2596
Liu, C. T.0000-0002-4314-8713
Scoville, N.0000-0002-0438-3323
Sheth, K.0000-0002-5496-4118
Toft, S.0000-0003-3631-7176
Additional Information:© 2014 American Astronomical Society. Received 2014 February 2; accepted 2014 August 24; published 2014 November 13. We thank the referee for insightful comments that greatly improved this work. We also thank Richard Massey and Kevin Bundy for helpful comments on a draft. This work was supported by the World Premier International Research Center Initiative (WPI Initiative), MEXT, Japan. S.T. acknowledges support from the Lundbeck Foundation. The Dark Cosmology Centre is funded by the Danish National Research Foundation. This research has made use of the NASA/IPAC Infrared Science Archive, which is operated by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, under contract with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. This research made use of APLpy, an open-source plotting package for Python hosted at
Group:COSMOS, Infrared Processing and Analysis Center (IPAC)
Funding AgencyGrant Number
World Premier International Research Center Initiative (WPI Initiative), MEXT, JapanUNSPECIFIED
Lundbeck FoundationUNSPECIFIED
Danish National Research FoundationUNSPECIFIED
Subject Keywords:galaxies: active; galaxies: formation; galaxies: interactions; techniques: image processing
Issue or Number:6
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20141219-112207981
Persistent URL:
Official Citation:Late-Stage Galaxy Mergers in Cosmos to z ~ 1 C. N. Lackner et al. 2014 The Astronomical Journal 148 137
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:53041
Deposited On:19 Dec 2014 22:49
Last Modified:10 Nov 2021 19:47

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