The origins of post-starburst galaxies at z < 0.05
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Post-starburst galaxies can be identified via the presence of prominent Hydrogen Balmer absorption lines in their spectra. We present a comprehensive study of the origin of strong Balmer lines in a volume-limited sample of 189 galaxies with 0.01 < z < 0.05, log (M⋆/M⊙) > 9.5 and projected axis ratio b/a > 0.32. We explore their structural properties, environments, emission lines and star formation histories, and compare them to control samples of star-forming and quiescent galaxies, and simulated galaxy mergers. Excluding contaminants, in which the strong Balmer lines are most likely caused by dust-star geometry, we find evidence for three different pathways through the post-starburst phase, with most events occurring in intermediate-density environments: (1) a significant disruptive event, such as a gas-rich major merger, causing a starburst and growth of a spheroidal component, followed by quenching of the star formation (70% of post-starburst galaxies at 9.5 < log (M⋆/M⊙) < 10.5 and 60% at log (M⋆/M⊙) > 10.5); (2) at 9.5 < log (M⋆/M⊙) < 10.5, stochastic star formation in blue-sequence galaxies, causing a weak burst and subsequent return to the blue sequence (30%); (3) at log (M⋆/M⊙) > 10.5, cyclic evolution of quiescent galaxies which gradually move towards the high-mass end of the red sequence through weak starbursts, possibly as a result of a merger with a smaller gas-rich companion (40%). Our analysis suggests that AGN are ‘on’ for 50% of the duration of the post-starburst phase, meaning that traditional samples of post-starburst galaxies with strict emission line cuts will be at least 50% incomplete due to the exclusion of narrow-line AGN.
Pawlik , M M , Taj Aldeen , L T H , Wild , V , Mendez-Abreu , J , Lahén , N , Johansson , P H , Jimenez , N , Lucas , W , Zheng , Y , Walcher , C J & Rowlands , K 2018 , ' The origins of post-starburst galaxies at z < 0.05 ' Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society . DOI: 10.1093/mnras/sty589
Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
© 2018, the Author(s). This work has been made available online in accordance with the publisher’s policies. This is the author created, accepted version manuscript following peer review and may differ slightly from the final published version. The final published version of this work is available at https://doi.org/10.1093/mnras/sty589
DescriptionMMP, VW, JM-A, NJ and KR acknowledge support of the European Research Council via the award of a starting grant (SEDMorph; P.I. V. Wild). LTA acknowledges support from the Iraqi Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research. NL acknowledges the support of the Jenny & Antti Wihuri Foundation. NL and PHJ acknowledge the support of the Academy of Finland project 274931. YZ ac- knowledges support of a China Scholarship Council Univer- sity of St Andrews Scholarship. WL acknowledges support from the ECOGAL project, grant agreement 291227, funded by the European Research Council under ERC-2011-ADG.
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