Candels+3D-HST: Compact SFGs at z ∼ 2-3, the progenitors of the first quiescent galaxies

G. Barro, S. M. Faber, P. G. Pérez-González, C. Pacifici, J. R. Trump, D. C. Koo, S. Wuyts, Y. Guo, E. Bell, A. Dekel, L. Porter, J. Primack, H. Ferguson, M. L.N. Ashby, K. Caputi, D. Ceverino, D. Croton, G. G. Fazio, M. Giavalisco, L. HsuD. Kocevski, A. Koekemoer, P. Kurczynski, P. Kollipara, J. Lee, D. H. McIntosh, E. McGrath, C. Moody, R. Somerville, C. Papovich, M. Salvato, P. Santini, T. Tal, A. Van Der Wel, C. C. Williams, S. P. Willner, A. Zolotov

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

135 Scopus citations


We analyze the star-forming and structural properties of 45 massive (log(M/M) >10) compact star-forming galaxies (SFGs) at 2 < z < 3 to explore whether they are progenitors of compact quiescent galaxies at z ∼ 2. The optical/NIR and far-IR Spitzer/Herschel colors indicate that most compact SFGs are heavily obscured. Nearly half (47%) host an X-ray-bright active galactic nucleus (AGN). In contrast, only about 10% of other massive galaxies at that time host AGNs. Compact SFGs have centrally concentrated light profiles and spheroidal morphologies similar to quiescent galaxies and are thus strikingly different from other SFGs, which typically are disk-like and sometimes clumpy or irregular. Most compact SFGs lie either within the star formation rate (SFR)-mass main sequence (65%) or below it (30%), on the expected evolutionary path toward quiescent galaxies. These results show conclusively that galaxies become more compact before they lose their gas and dust, quenching star formation. Using extensive HST photometry from CANDELS and grism spectroscopy from the 3D-HST survey, we model their stellar populations with either exponentially declining (τ) star formation histories (SFHs) or physically motivated SFHs drawn from semianalytic models (SAMs). SAMs predict longer formation timescales and older ages ∼2 Gyr, which are nearly twice as old as the estimates of the τ models. Both models yield good spectral energy distribution fits, indicating that the systematic uncertainty in the age due to degeneracies in the SFH is of that order of magnitude. However, SAM SFHs better match the observed slope and zero point of the SFR-mass main sequence. Contrary to expectations, some low-mass compact SFGs (log(M/M) =10-10.6) have younger ages but lower specific SFRs than that of more massive galaxies, suggesting that the low-mass galaxies reach the red sequence faster. If the progenitors of compact SFGs are extended SFGs, state-of-the-art SAMs show that mergers and disk instabilities (DIs) are both able to shrink galaxies, but DIs are more frequent (60% versus 40%) and form more concentrated galaxies. We confirm this result via high-resolution hydrodynamic simulations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number52
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Aug 10 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • galaxies: high-redshift galaxies: photometry galaxies: starburst

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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