Tag Archive | environment

GZ1 used for the fractions of early-types in clusters

We’re happy to report that we have once again used your (now public) GZ1 classifications to find an interesting result.

We use the classifications in a study we just submitted to MNRAS (or see the arXiv entry for a copy) looking at the observed fractions of early-type galaxies (and spiral galaxies), in groups and clusters of galaxies.

Recent work (De Lucia et al. (2011), which posted to the arxiv in September), used sophisticated semi
analytic models to determine the properties of galaxies found in massive
clusters in the Millennium Simulation. They identified elliptical galaxies
(or more accurately early-type galaxies) in the simulation, and found that the fraction these
galaxies, remained constant with cluster halo mass, over the range 10^14 to
10^14.8 solar masses. They compared their results with previous
observational studies which each contained less than 100 clusters.

With GZ1 we realised we could put together a much larger sample. We
used galaxies with GZ1 classifications, cross matched with cluster and
group catalogues, to compare the above results with almost 10 thousand
clusters. We found that the fraction of early-type galaxies is indeed
constant with cluster mass (see the included figure), and over a much larger range of 10^13 to 10^15
solar masses (with covers small groups of galaxies to rich clusters), than previously studied. We also found the well known result (to astronomers) that outside of groups and clusters, the fraction of early-type galaxies is
lower than inside of groups and clusters.

Plot showing the fraction of early-type galaxies (red lines) as a function of halo mass. We used two different halo mass catalogues, and the agreement between them is excellent. We also examine the fraction of spiral galaxies with halo mass (blue lines)

This work suggests that galaxies change from spiral to early-type when individual
galaxies join together to form small groups of galaxies, but that going from groups to rich clusters does not significantly change the morphologies of galaxies.

Without the GZ1 results at our finger-tips, this work, which was devised,
implemented, and written up in less than 2 months, would have taken much
longer to complete.

Thanks again for making the Zoo such a wealth of information,

Ben Hoyle (on behalf of Karen Masters, Bob Nichol, Steven Bamford, and Raul Jimenez)

Star formation rate vs. color in galaxy groups

Toady’s guest blog is from Andrew Wetzel, a postoc at Yale University. We asked Andrew to write this blog since he and his collaborators had used the public Galaxy Zoo 1 data in their own work (that is, they weren’t part of the team). Without any further ado, here’s Andrew’s experience with the Zoo data:

Recently, Jeremy Tinker, Charlie Conroy, and I posted a paper to the arXiv (click the link to access the paper) in which we sought to understand why galaxies located in groups and clusters have significantly lower star formation rates, and hence significantly redder colors, than galaxies in the field. Among the interesting things we found is that the likelihood of a galaxy to have its star formation quenched increases with group mass and increases towards the center of the group. Furthermore, galaxies are more likely to be quenched even if they are in groups as low in mass as 3 x 10^{11} Msol (for comparison, the `group’ comprised of the Milky Way and its satellites has a mass of about 10^{12} Msol). All together, these results place strong constraints on what quenches star formation in group galaxies. However, many of the above results disagree with what some other authors have found recently, and here is where Galaxy Zoo has been useful for us.

Because galaxies that are actively forming stars have a significant population of young, massive, blue stars, while galaxies that have very little star formation retain just long-lived, low-mass, red stars, astronomers often differentiate between star-forming and quenched galaxies based on their observed color. But using observed color can be dangerous, because if a galaxy contains a significant amount of gas and dust, it can appear red even if it is actively star-forming (analogous to how the sun appears redder on the horizon as the light passes through more of Earth’s atmosphere). To get a more robust measurement of a galaxy’s star formation, we used star formation rates derived from their spectra, because spectroscopic features are fairly immune to dust attenuation. But, we wanted to check how these spectroscopically-derived star formation rates compare with the color-based selection that many previous authors have used. What we found was striking: in lower mass galaxies, over 1/3 of those that appear red and dead actually have high star formation rates!

What is going on? Here is where Galaxy Zoo provided us with insight. We examined the Galaxy Zoo morphologies of these red-but-star-forming galaxies, and the result was telling: 70% of these galaxies are spirals (which have particularly high gas/dust content) and furthermore, 50% are edge-on-spirals (for which the dust attenuation is particularly strong). The image shows a good example of a galaxy which has a high star formation rate but appears red. You can even see the dust lane.

So, Galaxy Zoo helped to confirm our suspicion that many spiral galaxies that appear red are in fact actively forming stars, but their colors are reddened via dust (Karen Masters has done a lot of work in this direction as well). This gave us further confidence in our spectroscopic star formation rates and insight into why previous authors, using observed color, came to such different conclusions. Thanks to the Galaxy Zoo team and all the volunteers.