The VANDELS survey: The stellar metallicities of star-forming galaxies at 2.5 < z < 5.0

F. Cullen, R. J. McLure, J. S. Dunlop, S. Khochfar, R. Davé, R. Amorín, M. Bolzonella, A. C. Carnall, M. Castellano, A. Cimatti, M. Cirasuolo, G. Cresci, J. P.U. Fynbo, F. Fontanot, A. Gargiulo, B. Garilli, L. Guaita, N. Hathi, P. Hibon, F. MannucciF. Marchi, D. J. McLeod, L. Pentericci, L. Pozzetti, A. E. Shapley, M. Talia, G. Zamorani

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

72 Scopus citations


We present the results of a study utilizing ultradeep, rest-frame UV, spectroscopy to quantify the relationship between stellar mass and stellar metallicity for 681 star-forming galaxies at 2.5 < z < 5.0 (z = 3.5 ± 0.6) drawn from the VANDELS survey. Via a comparison with high-resolution stellar population synthesis models, we determine stellar metallicities (Z., here a proxy for the iron abundance) for a set of high signal-to-noise ratio composite spectra formed from subsamples selected by mass and redshift. Across the stellar mass range 8.5 < log(M/M) < 10.2, we find a strong correlation between stellar metallicity (Z/Z) and stellar mass, with stellar metallicity monotonically increasing from Z/Z < 0.09 at M = 3.2 × 108M to Z/Z = 0.27 at M = 1.7 × 1010M. In contrast, at a given stellar mass, we find no evidence for significant metallicity evolution across the redshift range of our sample. However, comparing our results to the z = 0 stellar mass.metallicity relation for star-forming galaxies,we find that the z=3.5 relation is consistent with being shifted to lower metallicities by -0.6 dex at all stellar masses. Contrasting our derived stellar metallicities with estimates of the gas-phase metallicities of galaxies at similar redshifts and stellar masses, we find evidence for enhanced O/Fe ratios in z ≳ 2.5 star-forming galaxies of the order (O/Fe)≳1.8×(O/Fe)⊙. Finally, by comparing our results to the predictions of three cosmological simulations, we find that the z = 3.5 stellar mass.metallicity relation is consistent with current predictions for how outflow strength scales with galaxy stellar mass. This conclusion is supported by an analysis of one-zone analytic chemical evolution models, and suggests that the mass-loading parameter (ν = Moutflow/M) scales as ν α Mβ with β ≃-0.4.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2038-2060
Number of pages23
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 1 2019


  • Galaxies: evolution
  • Galaxies: high redshift

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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