The slope of the cluster elliptical red sequence: A probe of cluster evolution

Michael D. Gladders, Omar López-Cruz, H. K.C. Yee, Tadayuki Kodama

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

132 Citations (Scopus)


The current formation models for cluster elliptical galaxies, which incorporate a mechanism for the metallicity enhancement of massive elliptical galaxies, predict a change in the observed slope of the red sequence of elliptical galaxies as a function of redshift. This change occurs primarily because the metal-rich galaxies become redder faster than the more metal-poor galaxies with increasing age. This effect is most pronounced within ∼4 Gyr of formation. Observations of the change of the slope of the red sequence with redshift may thus be used to constrain the formation epoch for galaxy clusters. We examine the red sequence of cluster elliptical galaxies using publicly available Hubble Space Telescope imaging data for a set of six 0.75 > z > 0.2 clusters and a sample of 44 Abell clusters at z < 0.15, imaged with the KPNO 0.9 m. We compare the derived slopes of the red sequences with a set of cluster elliptical evolution models and find good agreement. We demonstrate that such a comparison provides a useful constraint on the formation epoch for clusters, which can be made independently from considerations of absolute color evolution and scatter in the red sequence. From our initial comparison of the observed and model slopes as a function of redshift, we conclude, conservatively, that most of the elliptical galaxies in the cores of clusters must form at z > 2.0 and that these galaxies are coeval and passively evolving.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)571-577
Number of pages7
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2 PART 1
Publication statusPublished - 1998 Jul 10
Externally publishedYes


  • Galaxies: clusters: general
  • Galaxies: elliptical and lenticular, cD
  • Galaxies: evolution
  • Galaxies: formation
  • Galaxies: photometry
  • Galaxies: stellar content

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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