The evolution of post-starburst galaxies from z=2 to 0.5
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We present the evolution in the number density and stellar mass functions of photometrically selected post-starburst galaxies in the UKIDSS Deep Survey (UDS), with redshifts of 0.5 < z < 2 and stellar masses log (M/M⊙)>10. We find that this transitionary species of galaxy is rare at all redshifts, contributing ∼5% of the total population at z ∼ 2, to <1% by z ∼ 0.5. By comparing the mass functions of quiescent galaxies to post-starburst galaxies at three cosmic epochs, we show that rapid quenching of star formation can account for 100% of quiescent galaxy formation, if the post-starburst spectral features are visible for ∼250 Myr. The flattening of the low mass end of the quiescent galaxy stellar mass function seen at z ∼ 1 can be entirely explained by the addition of rapidly quenched galaxies. Only if a significant fraction of post-starburst galaxies have features that are visible for longer than 250 Myr, or they acquire new gas and return to the star-forming sequence, can there be significant growth of the red sequence from a slower quenching route. The shape of the mass function of these transitory post-starburst galaxies resembles that of quiescent galaxies at z ∼ 2, with a preferred stellar mass of log (M/M⊙)∼10.6, but evolves steadily to resemble that of star-forming galaxies at z < 1. This leads us to propose a dual origin for post-starburst galaxies: (1) at z ≳ 2 they are exclusively massive galaxies that have formed the bulk of their stars during a rapid assembly period, followed by complete quenching of further star formation; (2) at z ≲ 1 they are caused by the rapid quenching of gas-rich star-forming galaxies, independent of stellar mass, possibly due to environment and/or gas-rich major mergers.
Wild , V , Almaini , O , Dunlop , J , Simpson , C , Rowlands , K , Bowler , R , Maltby , D & McLure , R 2016 , ' The evolution of post-starburst galaxies from z=2 to 0.5 ' , Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society , vol. 463 , no. 1 , pp. 832-844 . https://doi.org/10.1093/mnras/stw1996
Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Copyright 2016 The Authors Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Royal Astronomical Society. This work is 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 mnras.oxfordjournals.org / https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/mnras/stw1996
DescriptionV. W. and K. R. acknowledge support of the European Research Council via the award of a starting grant (SEDMorph; P.I. V. Wild).
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