Star Formation in High-redshift Cluster Ellipticals

February 2015 • 2015ApJ...800..107W

Authors • Wagner, Cory R. • Brodwin, Mark • Snyder, Gregory F. • Gonzalez, Anthony H. • Stanford, S. A. • Alberts, Stacey • Pope, Alexandra • Stern, Daniel • Zeimann, Gregory R. • Chary, Ranga-Ram • Dey, Arjun • Eisenhardt, Peter R. M. • Mancone, Conor L. • Moustakas, John

Abstract • We measure the star formation rates (SFRs) of massive (M sstarf > 1010.1 M ) early-type galaxies (ETGs) in a sample of 11 high-redshift (1.0 < z < 1.5) galaxy clusters drawn from the IRAC Shallow Cluster Survey (ISCS). We identify ETGs visually from Hubble Space Telescope imaging and select likely cluster members as having either an appropriate spectroscopic redshift or red-sequence color. Mid-infrared SFRs are measured using Spitzer 24 μm data for isolated cluster galaxies for which contamination by neighbors, and active galactic nuclei, can be ruled out. Cluster ETGs show enhanced specific star formation rates (sSFRs) compared to cluster galaxies in the local universe, but have sSFRs more than four times lower than that of field ETGs at 1 < z < 1.5. Relative to the late-type cluster population, isolated ETGs show substantially quenched mean SFRs, yet still contribute 12% of the overall star formation activity measured in 1 < z < 1.5 clusters. We find that new ETGs are likely being formed in ISCS clusters; the fraction of cluster galaxies identified as ETGs increases from 34% to 56% from z ~ 1.5 → 1.25. While the fraction of cluster ETGs that are highly star-forming (SFR >= 26 M yr-1) drops from 27% to 10% over the same period, their sSFRs are roughly constant. All these factors taken together suggest that, particularly at z >~ 1.25, the events that created these distant cluster ETGs—likely mergers, at least among the most massive—were both recent and gas-rich.


IPAC Authors

Ranga-Ram Chary

Senior Scientist