Morphology Dependence of Stellar Age in Quenched Galaxies at Redshift ∼1.2: Massive Compact Galaxies Are Older than More Extended Ones

Christina C. Williams, Mauro Giavalisco, Rachel Bezanson, Nico Cappelluti, Paolo Cassata, Teng Liu, Bomee Lee, Elena Tundo, Eros Vanzella

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


We report the detection of morphology-dependent stellar age in massive quenched galaxies (QGs) at z ∼ 1.2. The sense of the dependence is that compact QGs are 0.5-2 Gyr older than normal-sized ones. The evidence comes from three different age indicators Dn4000, Hδ, and fits to spectral synthesis models - applied to their stacked optical spectra. All age indicators consistently show that the stellar populations of compact QGs are older than those of their normal-sized counterparts. We detect weak [O ii] emission in a fraction of QGs, and the strength of the line, when present, is similar between the two samples; however, compact galaxies exhibit a significantly lower frequency of [O ii] emission than normal ones. Fractions of both samples are individually detected in 7 Ms Chandra X-ray images (luminosities ∼1040-1041 erg s-1). The 7 Ms stacks of nondetected galaxies show similarly low luminosities in the soft band only, consistent with a hot gas origin for the X-ray emission. While both [O ii] emitters and nonemitters are also X-ray sources among normal galaxies, no compact galaxy with [O ii] emission is an X-ray source, arguing against an active galactic nucleus (AGN) powering the line in compact galaxies. We interpret the [O ii] properties as further evidence that compact galaxies are older and further along in the process of quenching star formation and suppressing gas accretion. Finally, we argue that the older age of compact QGs is evidence of progenitor bias: compact QGs simply reflect the smaller sizes of galaxies at their earlier quenching epoch, with stellar density most likely having nothing directly to do with cessation of star formation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number94
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1 2017


  • galaxies: elliptical and lenticular, cD
  • galaxies: evolution
  • galaxies: high-redshift

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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