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Published May 20, 2010 | Published
Journal Article Open

A z = 1.82 Analog of Local Ultra-massive Elliptical Galaxies


We present observations of a very massive galaxy at z = 1.82 that show that its morphology, size, velocity dispersion, and stellar population properties are fully consistent with those expected for passively evolving progenitors of today's giant ellipticals. These findings are based on a deep optical rest-frame spectrum obtained with the Multi-Object InfraRed Camera and Spectrograph on the Subaru Telescope of a high-z passive galaxy candidate (pBzK) from the COSMOS field, for which we accurately measure its redshift of z = 1.8230 and obtain an upper limit on its velocity dispersion σ_* < 326 km s^(–1). By detailed stellar population modeling of both the galaxy broadband spectral energy distribution and the rest-frame optical spectrum, we derive a star formation-weighted age and formation redshift of t_(sf) ≃ 1-2 Gyr and z_(form) ≃ 2.5-4, and a stellar mass of M_* ≃ (3-4) × 10^(11) M_☉. This is in agreement with a virial mass limit of M_(vir) < 7 × 10^(11) M_☉, derived from the measured σ_* value and stellar half-light radius, as well as with the dynamical mass limit based on the Jeans equations. In contrast to previously reported super-dense passive galaxies at z ~ 2, the present galaxy at z = 1.82 appears to have both size and velocity dispersion similar to early-type galaxies in the local universe with similar stellar mass. This suggests that z ~ 2 massive and passive galaxies may exhibit a wide range of properties, then possibly following quite different evolutionary histories from z ~ 2 to z = 0.

Additional Information

© 2010 American Astronomical Society. Received 2009 December 3; accepted 2010 April 12; published 2010 April 26. Based on data collected at the Subaru Telescope, which is operated by the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (S09A-043). We are grateful to Tomohiro Yoshikawa for providing MCSMDP before publication. We thank the Subaru telescope staff for help with our observations. We acknowledge funding ERC-StG-UPGAL-240039, ANR-07-BLAN-0228, ANR-08-JCJC-0008 and a Grant-in-Aid for Science Research (No. 19540245) by the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology. A.R. is grateful to the Institute of Astronomy of ETH Z¨urich for its kind hospitality. M.C. acknowledges support from an STFC Advanced Fellowship (PP/D005574/1).

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