A tale of dwarfs and giants: Using a z = 1.62 cluster to understand how the red sequence grew over the last 9.5 billion years

Gregory H. Rudnick, Kim Vy Tran, Casey Papovich, Ivelina Momcheva, Christopher Willmer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


We study the red sequence in a cluster of galaxies at z = 1.62 and follow its evolution over the intervening 9.5Gyr to the present day. Using deep YJKs imaging with the HAWK-I instrument on the Very Large Telescope, we identify a tight red sequence and construct its rest-frame i-band luminosity function (LF). There is a marked deficit of faint red galaxies in the cluster that causes a turnover in the LF. We compare the red-sequence LF to that for clusters at z < 0.8, correcting the luminosities for passive evolution. The shape of the cluster red-sequence LF does not evolve between z = 1.62 and z = 0.6 but at z < 0.6 the faint population builds up significantly. Meanwhile, between z = 1.62 and 0.6 the inferred total light on the red sequence grows by a factor of 2 and the bright end of the LF becomes more populated. We construct a simple model for red-sequence evolution that grows the red sequence in total luminosity and matches the constant LF shape at z > 0.6. In this model the cluster accretes blue galaxies from the field whose star formation is quenched and who are subsequently allowed to merge. We find that three to four mergers among cluster galaxies during the 4Gyr between z = 1.62 and z = 0.6 match the observed LF evolution between the two redshifts. The inferred merger rate is consistent with other studies of this cluster. Our result supports the picture that galaxy merging during the major growth phase of massive clusters is an important process in shaping the red-sequence population at all luminosities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number14
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Aug 10 2012


  • galaxies: clusters: general
  • galaxies: evolution
  • galaxies: formation
  • galaxies: high-redshift
  • galaxies: stellar content

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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