Early assembly of the most massive galaxies

Collins, Chris A. and Stott, John P. and Hilton, Matt and Kay, Scott T. and Stanford, S. Adam and Davidson, Michael and Hosmer, Mark and Hoyle, Ben and Liddle, Andrew and Lloyd-Davies, Ed and Mann, Robert G. and Mehrtens, Nicola and Miller, Christopher J. and Nichol, Robert C. and Romer, A. Kathy and Sahlén, Martin and Viana, Pedro T P and West, Michael J. (2009) Early assembly of the most massive galaxies. Nature, 458 (7238). pp. 603-606. ISSN 0028-0836

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Abstract

The current consensus is that galaxies begin as small density fluctuations in the early Universe and grow by in situ star formation and hierarchical merging. Stars begin to form relatively quickly in sub-galactic-sized building blocks called haloes which are subsequently assembled into galaxies. However, exactly when this assembly takes place is a matter of some debate. Here we report that the stellar masses of brightest cluster galaxies, which are the most luminous objects emitting stellar light, some 9 billion years ago are not significantly different from their stellar masses today. Brightest cluster galaxies are almost fully assembled 4-5 billion years after the Big Bang, having grown to more than 90 per cent of their final stellar mass by this time. Our data conflict with the most recent galaxy formation models based on the largest simulations of dark-matter halo development. These models predict protracted formation of brightest cluster galaxies over a Hubble time, with only 22 per cent of the stellar mass assembled at the epoch probed by our sample. Our findings suggest a new picture in which brightest cluster galaxies experience an early period of rapid growth rather than prolonged hierarchical assembly.

Item Type:
Journal Article
Journal or Publication Title:
Nature
Uncontrolled Keywords:
/dk/atira/pure/subjectarea/asjc/1000
Subjects:
ID Code:
84047
Deposited By:
Deposited On:
17 Jan 2017 14:58
Refereed?:
Yes
Published?:
Published
Last Modified:
24 Jun 2020 04:15