Catching Quenching Galaxies: The Nature of the WISE Infrared Transition Zone

October 2014 • 2014ApJ...794L..13A

Authors • Alatalo, Katherine • Cales, Sabrina L. • Appleton, Philip N. • Kewley, Lisa J. • Lacy, Mark • Lisenfeld, Ute • Nyland, Kristina • Rich, Jeffrey A.

Abstract • We present the discovery of a prominent bifurcation between early-type galaxies and late-type galaxies, in [4.6]-[12] μm colors from the Wide Field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE). We then use an emission-line diagnostic comparison sample to explore the nature of objects found both within and near the edges of this WISE infrared transition zone (IRTZ). We hypothesize that this bifurcation might be due to the presence of hot dust and polyaromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) emission features in late-type galaxies. Using a sample of galaxies selected through the Shocked Poststarburst Galaxy Survey (SPOGS), we are able to identify galaxies with strong Balmer absorption (EW(Hδ) > 5 Å) as well as emission lines inconsistent with star formation (deemed SPOG candidates, or SPOGs*) that lie within the optical green valley. Seyferts and low-ionization nuclear emission line regions, whose u - r colors tend to be red, are strongly represented within IRTZ, whereas SPOGs* tend to sit near the star-forming edge. Although active galactic nuclei are well represented in the IRTZ, we argue that the dominant IRTZ population is composed of galaxies that are in late stages of transitioning across the optical green valley, shedding the last of their remnant interstellar media.


IPAC Authors


Phil Appleton

Senior Scientist