Universiteit Leiden

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Early death of massive galaxies in the distant universe

Promotor: M. Franx, Co-Promotor: I.F. Labbé

Auteur Caroline M. S. Straatman
Links Thesis in Leiden Repository

One of the major unresolved questions in astronomy is: how do galaxies form and evolve? In the local universe we can distinguish between actively star-forming and quiescent galaxies. Quiescent galaxies are typically the most massive, with elliptical morphologies and red optical colors. The mechanisms that cause star-formation in galaxies to be turned off, so that star-forming galaxies become quiescent, are not yet well understood. Using the FourStar Galaxy Evolution Survey (ZFOURGE), comprising near-infrared data of over seventy thousand galaxies, we aim to find and study the first quiescent galaxies. First we describe the data products of ZFOURGE. Then we present the discovery of 15 very massive quiescent galaxies over 12 billion years ago, when the universe was only 1.6 billion years old. The implication is that they must have formed extremely rapidly, with explosively high star-formation rates. They are very compact, and much smaller than nearby quiescent galaxies as well as equally distant star-forming galaxies. Considering number counts and average properties of star-forming galaxies at even earlier times, we speculate that their formation history may have included a dust-obscured star-burst, possibly also forming a dense stellar core. Finally, we present a study of star-forming galaxy kinematics 11 billion years ago.