High-redshift galaxy kinematics: Constraints on models of disk formation

Brant E. Robertson, James S. Bullock

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

79 Scopus citations


Integral field spectroscopy of galaxies at redshift z-2 has revealed a population of early-forming, rotationally supported disks. These high-redshift systems provide a potentially important clue to the formation processes that build disk galaxies in the universe. A particularly well-studied example is the z=2.38 galaxy BzK 15504, which was shown by Genzel and coworkers to be a rotationally supported disk despite the fact that its high star formation rate and short gas consumption timescale require a very rapid acquisition of mass. Previous kinematical analyses have suggested that z-2 disk galaxies like BzK 15504 did not form through mergers because their line-of-sight velocity fields display low levels of asymmetry. We perform the same kinematical analysis on a set of simulated disk galaxies formed in gas-rich mergers of the type that may be common at high redshift, and show that the remnant disks display low velocity field asymmetry and satisfy the criteria that have been used to classify high-redshift galaxies as disks observationally. Further, we compare one of our remnants to the bulk properties of BzK 15504 and show that it has a star formation rate, gas surface density, and a circular velocity-to-velocity dispersion ratio that matches BzK 15504 remarkably well. We suggest that observations of high-redshift disk galaxies like BzK 15504 are consistent with the hypothesis that gas-rich mergers play an important role in disk formation at high redshift.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)L27-L30
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1 PART 2
StatePublished - 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Formation
  • Galaxies
  • High-redshift
  • Kinematics and dynamics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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