Robust determination of the major merger fraction at z=0.6 in the groth strip



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López Sanjuan, Carlos and Balcells, Marc and Enrique García-Dabo, César and Prieto, Mercedes and Cristobal Hornillos, David and Eliche Moral, María del Carmen and Abreu, David and Erwin, Peter and Guzmán, Rafael (2009) Robust determination of the major merger fraction at z=0.6 in the groth strip. Astrophysical journal, 694 (1). pp. 643-653. ISSN 0004-637X

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We measure the fraction of galaxies undergoing disk-disk major mergers (∫^mph_m) at intermediate redshifts ((0.35 ≤ z < 0.85) by studying the asymmetry index A of galaxy images. Results are provided for B- and K_s-band absolute magnitude selected samples from the Groth strip in the galaxy origins and young assembly photometric survey. Three sources of systematic error are carefully addressed and quantified. The effects of the large errors in the photometric redshifts and asymmetry indices are corrected with maximum-likelihood techniques. Biases linked to the redshift degradation of the morphological information in the images are treated by measuring asymmetries on images artificially redshifted to a reference redshift of z_d = 0.75. Morphological K-corrections are further constrained by remaining within redshifts where the images sample redward of 4000 angstrom. We find that: (1) our data allow for a robust merger fraction to be provided for a single redshift bin, which we center at z = 0.6. (2) Merger fractions at that z have lower values than previous determinations: ∫_m^mph = 0.045^-0.011_+0.014 for M_B ≤ -20 galaxies, and f_m^mph = 0.031(-0.009)(+0.013) for M(Ks) <= - 23.5 galaxies. And, (3) failure to address the effects of the large observational errors leads to overestimating f_m^mph by factors of 10%-60%. Combining our results with those on other B-band selected samples, and parameterizing the merger fraction evolution as ∫_m^mph (z) = ∫_m^mph (0)(1 + z)^m, we obtain that m = 2.9 ± 0.8, and ∫_m^mph (0) = 0.012 ± 0.004. For an assumed merger timescale between 0.35 0.6 Gyr, these values imply that only 20%-35% of present-day M_B ≤ -20 galaxies have undergone a disk-disk major merger since z ∽ 1. Assuming a K_s -band mass-to- light ratio not varying with luminosity, we infer that the merger rate of galaxies with stellarmass M(star) greater than or similar to 3.5 x 10^10 M_☉ is R_m = 1.6_-0.6^+0.9 x 10^-4 Mpc^-3 Gyr^-1 at z = 0.6. When we compare with previous studies at similar redshifts, we find that the merger rate decreases when mass increases.

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© 2009. The American Astronomical Society.
We dedicate this paper to the memory of our six IAC colleagues and friends who met with a fatal accident in Piedra de los Cochinos, Tenerife, in 2007 February. Special thanks go to Maurizio Panniello, whose teachings of python were so important for this paper.This work was supported by the Spanish Programa Nacional de Astronomía y Astrofísica through project number AYA2006-12955.
Facilities: HST (WFPC2); ING:Herschel (INGRID); ING:Newton (WFC)

Uncontrolled Keywords:Close galaxy pairs; Ultraluminous infrared galaxies; Cold dark-matter; Field galaxies; Elliptic galaxies; Massive galaxies; Redshift survey; Stellar mass; Red-sequence; Rate evolution
Subjects:Sciences > Physics > Astrophysics
Sciences > Physics > Astronomy
ID Code:31446
Deposited On:31 Jul 2015 12:24
Last Modified:10 Dec 2018 15:05

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