Star-forming galaxies growing up over the last ten billion years


Star-forming galaxies growing up over the last ten billion years

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Title: Star-forming galaxies growing up over the last ten billion years
Author: Bauer, Amanda Elaine, 1979-
Abstract: The work presented in this thesis investigates the evolution of starforming galaxies over the last ten billion years. This time period encompasses nearly three-fourths of the age of the Universe, when a substantial fraction of the total stellar mass forms, and the sites of active star formation shift to lower-mass galaxies. The first study presented here combines galaxies from the spectroscopic datasets of the FORS Deep Field and the MUNICS Survey and provides the first significant investigation of the specific star formation rate (SSFR; star formation rate [SFR] per unit stellar mass) over a wide range of stellar masses and redshifts (reaching redshift z = 1:5). From [OII]-derived SFRs, we find that low-mass galaxies have higher SSFRs all the way to z = 1:5, implying that star formation contributes progressively more to the growth of stellar mass in low-mass galaxies than in high-mass galaxies. In the follow-up to this study, we combine several near-infrared-selected samples to create one of the largest collections of galaxies with spectroscopic redshifts and morphologies from Hubble Space Telescope images, to characterize the stellar mass build up in galaxies since z = 1:6. The primary data comes from the FORS Deep Field, the MUNICS Survey, the GOODS-South field as observed by the K20 survey and ESO, and the Sloan Digital Sky Survey as a local comparison sample. After bringing together extensive photometric and spectroscopic data sets from several publicly available surveys, we use identical methods to derive physical properties and investigate how galaxy populations evolve with time. Galaxy properties include stellar masses derived from multiwavelength photometry, star formation rates calculated from [OII][lambda]3726Å emission lines, metallicity, color, and SSFRs. We find that the reddest, yet actively star-forming, disk-dominated galaxy population present at z ~ 1:3, decreases in number by z ~ 0:3 during the same timeframe when the bluest quiescent, disk-dominated galaxy population increases in number. We confirm the previously identified morphological separation in the SSFR versus M[subscript asterisk] plane found for local samples and for galaxies at z = 0:7: bulge-dominated galaxies are more massive and have lower SSFRs. We extend this relation for the first time to z = 1:6, showing that galaxies with high SSFRs and diskdominated structures tend to shift to lower masses as redshift decreases. We identify an observed upper envelop in SSFR that lies roughly parallel to lines of constant SFR, decreases with time, and is unaffected by incompleteness among the samples. We apply common star formation histories (constant, ex ponential, and power law) to understand the evolving populations we see, but cannot simultaneously reproduce low-mass galaxies with high SSFRs and highmass galaxies with low SSFRs at all redshifts and over our full mass range. Current semi-analytic models attempt to understand the mass at which galaxies stop forming stars through connections to Active Galactic Nuclei feedback, gas consumption, declining galaxy merger rates and/or changes in the incoming cold gas supply, but none can explain the gradual and constant decline of star formation consistent among all galaxies below this mass. We suggest a possible resolution where star formation histories of galaxies are dependent on morphology, in addition to the growing evidence for lower mass galaxies to begin forming stars at later times, and with lower initial SFRs than the initial SFRs experienced at earlier times by higher mass galaxies.
Department: Astronomy
Subject: Galaxies--Evolution Stars--Formation Stars--Masses Active galaxies
Date: 2008-08

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