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The Ages of Compact Early-Type Galaxies

Stephanie Keating

Doctor of Philosophy 2015
Graduate Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics, University of Toronto

Most massive galaxies are compact at high redshifts, but similarly compact massive galaxies are rare in the local universe. The most common interpretation of this phenomenon is that massive galaxies have grown in size by a factor of about five since redshift z = 2. An alternative explanation is that recently-formed massive galaxies are larger (a ‘progenitor bias’). In this thesis we explore the importance of progenitor bias by looking for systematic differences in the stellar populations of compact early-type galaxies in the DEEP2 survey as a function of size. Our analysis is based on exploiting a statistical technique we apply for the first time characterizing the distribution of stellar populations in co-added spectra. The light-weighted ages of compact early-type galaxies at redshifts 0.5 < z < 1.4 are compared to those of a control sample of larger galaxies at similar redshifts. We find that massive compact early-type galaxies selected on the basis of red color and high bulge-to-total ratio are younger than similarly-selected larger galaxies, suggesting that size growth in these objects is not driven mainly by progenitor bias, and that individual galaxies grow as their stellar populations age. However, compact early-type galaxies selected on the basis of image smoothness and high bulge-to-total ratio are older than a control sample of larger galaxies. Progenitor bias will play a significant role in defining the apparent size changes of early-type galaxies if they are selected on the basis of the smoothness of their light distributions.

Reproduced with permission. library@astro.utoronto.ca
August 12, 2015