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Creators/Authors contains: "Johnson, Benjamin D."

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  1. Abstract

    We explore how the presence of detectable molecular gas depends on the inferred star formation histories (SFHs) in eight massive, quiescent galaxies atz∼ 0.7. Half of the sample have clear detections of molecular gas, traced by CO(2–1). We find that the molecular gas content is unrelated to the rate of star formation decline prior to the most recent 1 Gyr, suggesting that the gas reservoirs are not left over from their primary star formation epoch. However, the recent SFHs of CO-detected galaxies demonstrate evidence for secondary bursts of star formation in their last Gyr. The fraction of stellar mass formed in these secondary bursts ranges fromfburst≈ 0.3%–6% and ended betweentend-burst≈ 0–330 Myr ago. The CO-detected galaxies form a higher fraction of mass in the last Gyr (fM1Gyr=2.6%±1.8%) compared to the CO-undetected galaxies (fM1Gyr=0.2%±0.1%). The galaxies with gas reservoirs have enhanced late-time star formation, highlighting this as a contributing factor to the observed heterogeneity in the gas reservoirs in high-redshift quiescent galaxies. We find that the amount of gas and star formation driven by these secondary bursts are inconsistent with that expected from dry minor mergers, and instead are likely driven bymore »recently accreted gas, i.e., gas-rich minor mergers. This conclusion would not have been made based on SFRUV+IRmeasurements alone, highlighting the power of detailed SFH modeling in the interpretation of gas reservoirs. Larger samples are needed to understand the frequency of low-level rejuvenation among quiescent galaxies at intermediate redshifts, and to what extent this drives the diversity of molecular gas reservoirs.

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  2. Abstract Accurate models of the star formation histories (SFHs) of recently quenched galaxies can provide constraints on when and how galaxies shut down their star formation. The recent development of nonparametric SFH models promises the flexibility required to make these measurements. However, model and prior choices significantly affect derived SFHs, particularly for post-starburst galaxies (PSBs), which have sharp changes in their recent SFH. In this paper, we create mock PSBs, then use the Prospector SED fitting software to test how well four different SFH models recover key properties. We find that a two-component parametric model performs well for our simple mock galaxies, but is sensitive to model mismatches. The fixed- and flexible-bin nonparametric models included in Prospector are able to rapidly quench a major burst of star formation, but systematically underestimate the post-burst age by up to 200 Myr. We develop a custom SFH model that allows for additional flexibility in the recent SFH. Our flexible nonparametric model is able to constrain post-burst ages with no significant offset and just ∼90 Myr of scatter. Our results suggest that while standard nonparametric models are able to recover first-order quantities of the SFH (mass, SFR, average age), accurately recovering higher-order quantities (burstmore »fraction, quenching time) requires careful consideration of model flexibility. These mock recovery tests are a critical part of future SFH studies. Finally, we show that our new, public SFH model is able to accurately recover the properties of mock star-forming and quiescent galaxies and is suitable for broader use in the SED fitting community.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available August 1, 2023
  3. Abstract One of the most common methods for inferring galaxy attenuation curves is via spectral energy distribution (SED) modeling, where the dust attenuation properties are modeled simultaneously with other galaxy physical properties. In this paper, we assess the ability of SED modeling to infer these dust attenuation curves from broadband photometry, and suggest a new flexible model that greatly improves the accuracy of attenuation curve derivations. To do this, we fit mock SEDs generated from the simba cosmological simulation with the prospector SED fitting code. We consider the impact of the commonly assumed uniform screen model and introduce a new nonuniform screen model parameterized by the fraction of unobscured stellar light. This nonuniform screen model allows for a nonzero fraction of stellar light to remain unattenuated, resulting in a more flexible attenuation curve shape by decoupling the shape of the UV attenuation curve from the optical attenuation curve. The ability to constrain the dust attenuation curve is significantly improved with the use of a nonuniform screen model, with the median offset in UV attenuation decreasing from −0.30 dex with a uniform screen model to −0.17 dex with the nonuniform screen model. With this increase in dust attenuation modeling accuracy, wemore »also improve the star formation rates (SFRs) inferred with the nonuniform screen model, decreasing the SFR offset on average by 0.12 dex. We discuss the efficacy of this new model, focusing on caveats with modeling star-dust geometries and the constraining power of available SED observations.« less
  4. Abstract

    We report the discovery of Specter, a disrupted ultrafaint dwarf galaxy revealed by the H3 Spectroscopic Survey. We detected this structure via a pair of comoving metal-poor stars at a distance of 12.5 kpc, and further characterized it with Gaia astrometry and follow-up spectroscopy. Specter is a 25° × 1° stream of stars that is entirely invisible until strict kinematic cuts are applied to remove the Galactic foreground. The spectroscopic members suggest a stellar ageτ≳ 12 Gyr and a mean metallicity[Fe/H]=1.840.18+0.16, with a significant intrinsic metallicity dispersionσ[Fe/H]=0.370.13+0.21. We therefore argue that Specter is the disrupted remnant of an ancient dwarf galaxy. With an integrated luminosityMV≈ −2.6, Specter is by far the least-luminous dwarf galaxy stream known. We estimate that dozens of similar streams are lurking below the detection threshold of current search techniques, and conclude that spectroscopic surveys offer a novel means to identify extremely low surface brightness structures.

  5. Abstract We describe the Studying Quenching in Intermediate- z Galaxies: Gas, angu L → ar momentum, and Evolution ( SQuIGG L ⃗ E ) survey of intermediate-redshift post-starburst galaxies. We leverage the large sky coverage of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey to select ∼ 1300 recently quenched galaxies at 0.5 < z ≤ 0.9 based on their unique spectral shapes. These bright, intermediate-redshift galaxies are ideal laboratories to study the physics responsible for the rapid quenching of star formation: they are distant enough to be useful analogs for high-redshift quenching galaxies, but low enough redshift that multiwavelength follow-up observations are feasible with modest telescope investments. We use the Prospector code to infer the stellar population properties and nonparametric star formation histories (SFHs) of all galaxies in the sample. We find that SQuIGG L ⃗ E galaxies are both very massive ( M * ∼ 10 11.25 M ⊙ ) and quenched, with inferred star formation rates ≲1 M ⊙ yr −1 , more than an order of magnitude below the star-forming main sequence. The best-fit SFHs confirm that these galaxies recently quenched a major burst of star formation: >75% of SQuIGG L ⃗ E galaxies formed at least a quartermore »of their total stellar mass in the recent burst, which ended just ∼200 Myr before observation. We find that SQuIGG L ⃗ E galaxies are on average younger and more burst-dominated than most other z ≲ 1 post-starburst galaxy samples. This large sample of bright post-starburst galaxies at intermediate redshift opens a wide range of studies into the quenching process. In particular, the full SQuIGG L ⃗ E survey will investigate the molecular gas reservoirs, morphologies, kinematics, resolved stellar populations, active galactic nucleus incidence, and infrared properties of this unique sample of galaxies in order to place definitive constraints on the quenching process.« less
  6. ABSTRACT We compare the star-forming main sequence (SFMS) of galaxies – both integrated and resolved on 1 kpc scales – between the high-resolution TNG50 simulation of IllustrisTNG and observations from the 3D-HST slitless spectroscopic survey at z ∼ 1. Contrasting integrated star formation rates (SFRs), we find that the slope and normalization of the star-forming main sequence in TNG50 are quantitatively consistent with values derived by fitting observations from 3D-HST with the Prospector Bayesian inference framework. The previous offsets of 0.2–1 dex between observed and simulated main-sequence normalizations are resolved when using the updated masses and SFRs from Prospector. The scatter is generically smaller in TNG50 than in 3D-HST for more massive galaxies with M*> 1010 M⊙, by ∼10–40 per cent, after accounting for observational uncertainties. When comparing resolved star formation, we also find good agreement between TNG50 and 3D-HST: average specific star formation rate (sSFR) radial profiles of galaxies at all masses and radii below, on, and above the SFMS are similar in both normalization and shape. Most noteworthy, massive galaxies with M*> 1010.5 M⊙, which have fallen below the SFMS due to ongoing quenching, exhibit a clear central SFR suppression, in both TNG50 and 3D-HST. In contrast, the original Illustris simulation and a variantmore »TNG run without black hole kinetic wind feedback, do not reproduce the central SFR profile suppression seen in data. In TNG, inside-out quenching is due to the supermassive black hole (SMBH) feedback model operating at low accretion rates.« less