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Published August 20, 2013 | Submitted + Published
Journal Article Open

Newly Quenched Galaxies as the Cause for the Apparent Evolution in Average Size of the Population


We use the large COSMOS sample of galaxies to study in an internally self-consistent way the change in the number densities of quenched early-type galaxies (Q-ETGs) of a given size over the redshift interval 0.2 < z < 1 in order to study the claimed size evolution of these galaxies. In a stellar mass bin at 10^(10.5) < M_(galaxy) < 10^(11) M_☉, we see no change in the number density of compact Q-ETGs over this redshift range, while in a higher mass bin at >10^(11) M_☉, where we would expect merging to be more significant, we find a small decrease, by ~30%. In both mass bins, the increase of the median sizes of Q-ETGs with time is primarily caused by the addition to the size function of larger and more diffuse Q-ETGs. At all masses, compact Q-ETGs become systematically redder toward later epochs, with a (U − V) color difference which is consistent with a passive evolution of their stellar populations, indicating that they are a stable population that does not appreciably evolve in size. We find furthermore, at all epochs, that the larger Q-ETGs (at least in the lower mass bin) have average rest-frame colors that are systematically bluer than those of the more compact Q-ETGs, suggesting that the former are indeed younger than the latter. The idea that new, large, Q-ETGs are responsible for the observed growth in the median size of the population at a given mass is also supported by analysis of the sizes and number of the star-forming galaxies that are expected to be the progenitors of the new Q-ETGs over the same period. In the low mass bin, the new Q-ETGs appear to have ~30% smaller half-light radii than their star-forming progenitors. This is likely due to the fading of their disks after they cease star formation. Comparison with higher redshifts shows that the median size of newly quenched galaxies roughly scales, at constant mass, as (1 + z)^(−1). We conclude that the dominant cause of the size evolution seen in the Q-ETG population is that the average sizes and thus stellar densities of individual Q-ETGs roughly scale with the average density of the universe at the time when they were quenched, and that subsequent size changes in individual objects, through merging or other processes, are of secondary importance, especially at masses below 10^(11) M_☉.

Additional Information

© 2013 American Astronomical Society. Received 2013 February 18; accepted 2013 June 7; published 2013 August 1. T.B., A.C., E.C., and M.O. thank the Swiss National Science Foundation for financial support. A.R. acknowledges the ETHZ Institute of Astronomy for its kind hospitality at the time when this research was started and this paper first laid down, and the National Institute for Astrophysics for support through the grant INAF-PRIN 2010.

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Published - 0004-637X_773_2_112.pdf

Submitted - 1302.5115v2.pdf


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