On the formation timescale of massive cluster ellipticals based on deep near-infrared spectroscopy at z ∼ 2

Masayuki Tanaka, Sune Toft, Danilo Marchesini, Andrew Zirm, Carlos De Breuck, Tadayuki Kodama, Yusei Koyama, Jaron Kurk, Ichi Tanaka

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57 Citations (Scopus)


We present improved constraints on the formation timescale of massive cluster galaxies based on rest-frame optical spectra of galaxies in a forming cluster located at z = 2.16. The spectra are obtained with MOIRCS on the Subaru Telescope with an integration time of ∼7 hr. We achieve accurate redshift measurements by fitting spectral energy distributions using the spectra and broadband photometry simultaneously, allowing us to identify probable cluster members. Clusters at low redshifts are dominated by quiescent galaxies, but we find that quiescent galaxies and star-forming galaxies coexist in this z = 2 system. Interestingly, the quiescent galaxies form a weak red sequence in the process of forming. By stacking the spectra of star-forming galaxies, we observe strong emission lines such as [O II] and [O III] and we obtain a tentative hint of active galactic nucleus activities in these galaxies. On the other hand, the stacked spectrum of the quiescent galaxies reveals a clear 4000 break with a possible Ca II H+K absorption feature and strong emission lines such as [O II] are absent in the spectrum, confirming the quiescent nature of these galaxies. We then perform detailed spectral analyses of the stacked spectrum, which suggest that these massive quiescent galaxies formed at redshifts between 3 and 4 on a timescale of ≲ 0.5 Gyr. This short formation timescale is not reproduced in recent numerical simulations. We discuss possible mechanisms for how these galaxies form 1011 M⊙ stellar mass on a short timescale and become red and quiescent by z = 2.

Original languageEnglish
Article number113
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2013 Aug 1


  • galaxies: clusters: individual (PKS1138?262)
  • galaxies: evolution
  • galaxies: formation
  • galaxies: general


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