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  1. Abstract

    The molecular gas in galaxies traces both the fuel for star formation and the processes that can enhance or suppress star formation. Observations of the molecular gas state can thus point to when and why galaxies stop forming stars. In this study, we present Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array observations of the molecular gas in galaxies evolving through the post-starburst phase. These galaxies have low current star formation rates (SFRs), regardless of the SFR tracer used, with recent starbursts ending within the last 600 Myr. We present CO (3–2) observations for three post-starburst galaxies, and dense gas HCN/HCO+/HNC (1–0) observations for six (four new) post-starburst galaxies. The post-starbursts have low excitation traced by the CO spectral-line energy distribution up to CO (3–2), more similar to early-type than starburst galaxies. The low excitation indicates that lower density rather than high temperatures may suppress star formation during the post-starburst phase. One galaxy displays a blueshifted outflow traced by CO (3–2). MaNGA observations show that the ionized gas velocity is disturbed relative to the stellar velocity field, with a blueshifted component aligned with the molecular gas outflow, suggestive of a multiphase outflow. Low ratios of HCO+/CO, indicating low fractions of dense molecular gas relative to the total molecular gas, are seen throughout post-starburst phase, except for the youngest post-starburst galaxy considered here. These observations indicate that the impact of any feedback or quenching processes may be limited to low excitation and weak outflows in the cold molecular gas during the post-starburst phase.

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  2. Abstract

    We use ALMA observations of CO(2–1) in 13 massive (M*≳ 1011M) poststarburst galaxies atz∼ 0.6 to constrain the molecular gas content in galaxies shortly after they quench their major star-forming episode. The poststarburst galaxies in this study are selected from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey spectroscopic samples (Data Release 14) based on their spectral shapes, as part of the Studying QUenching at Intermediate-z Galaxies: Gas, anguLarmomentum, and Evolution (SQuIGGLE) program. Early results showed that two poststarburst galaxies host large H2reservoirs despite their low inferred star formation rates (SFRs). Here we expand this analysis to a larger statistical sample of 13 galaxies. Six of the primary targets (45%) are detected, withMH2109M. Given their high stellar masses, this mass limit corresponds to an average gas fraction offH2MH2/M*7%or ∼14% using lower stellar masses estimates derived from analytic, exponentially declining star formation histories. The gas fraction correlates with theDn4000 spectral index, suggesting that the cold gas reservoirs decrease with time since burst, as found in local K+A galaxies. Star formation histories derived from flexible stellar population synthesis modeling support this empirical finding: galaxies that quenched ≲150 Myr prior to observation host detectable CO(2–1) emission, while older poststarburst galaxies are undetected. The large H2reservoirs and low SFRs in the sample imply that the quenching of star formation precedes the disappearance of the cold gas reservoirs. However, within the following 100–200 Myr, theSQuIGGLEgalaxies require the additional and efficient heating or removal of cold gas to bring their low SFRs in line with standard H2scaling relations.

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    We use the simba cosmological galaxy formation simulation to investigate the relationship between major mergers ($\lesssim$4:1), starbursts, and galaxy quenching. Mergers are identified via sudden jumps in stellar mass M* well above that expected from in situ star formation, while quenching is defined as going from specific star formation rate (sSFR) $\gt t_{\rm H}^{-1}$ to $\lt 0.2t_{\rm H}^{-1}$, where tH is the Hubble time. At z ≈ 0–3, mergers show ∼2–3× higher SFR than a mass-matched sample of star-forming galaxies, but globally represent $\lesssim 1{{\ \rm per\ cent}}$ of the cosmic SF budget. At low masses, the increase in SFR in mergers is mostly attributed to an increase in the H2 content, but for $M_*\gtrsim 10^{10.5} \,\mathrm{ M}_{\odot }$ mergers also show an elevated star formation efficiency suggesting denser gas within merging galaxies. The merger rate for star-forming galaxies shows a rapid increase with redshift, ∝(1 + z)3.5, but the quenching rate evolves much more slowly, ∝(1 + z)0.9; there are insufficient mergers to explain the quenching rate at $z\lesssim 1.5$. simba first quenches galaxies at $z\gtrsim 3$, with a number density in good agreement with observations. The quenching time-scales τq are strongly bimodal, with ‘slow’ quenchings (τq ∼ 0.1tH) dominating overall, but ‘fast’ quenchings (τq ∼ 0.01tH) dominating in M* ∼ 1010–1010.5 M$\odot$ galaxies, likely induced by simba’s jet-mode black hole feedback. The delay time distribution between mergers and quenching events suggests no physical connection to either fast or slow quenching. Hence, simba predicts that major mergers induce starbursts, but are unrelated to quenching in either fast or slow mode.

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  4. 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 (burst 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. 
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  5. Abstract Observations of cold molecular gas reservoirs are critical for understanding the shutdown of star formation in massive galaxies. While dust continuum is an efficient and affordable tracer, this method relies upon the assumption of a “normal” molecular-gas to dust mass ratio, δ GDR , typically of order 100. Recent null detections of quiescent galaxies in deep dust continuum observations support a picture where the cold gas and dust have been rapidly depleted or expelled. In this work, we present another viable explanation: a significant fraction of galaxies with low star formation per unit stellar mass are predicted to have extreme δ GDR ratios. We show that simulated massive quiescent galaxies at 0 < z < 3 in the simba cosmological simulations have δ GDR values that extend >4 orders of magnitude. The dust in most simulated quiescent galaxies is destroyed significantly more rapidly than the molecular gas depletes, and cannot be replenished. The transition from star-forming to quiescent halts dust formation via star formation processes, with dust subsequently destroyed by supernova shocks and thermal sputtering of dust grains embedded in hot plasma. After this point, the dust growth rate in the models is not sufficient to overcome the loss of >3 orders of magnitude in dust mass to return to normal values of δ GDR despite having high metallicity. Our results indicate that it is not straight forward to use a single observational indicator to robustly preselect exotic versus normal ratios. These simulations make strong predictions that can be tested with millimeter facilities. 
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  6. ABSTRACT We study specific star formation rate (sSFR) and gas profiles of star-forming (SF) and green valley (GV) galaxies in the simba cosmological hydrodynamic simulation. SF galaxy half-light radii (Rhalf) at z = 0 and their evolution (∝(1 + z)−0.78) agree with observations. Passive galaxy Rhalf agree with observations at high redshift, but by z = 0 are too large, owing to numerical heating. We compare simbaz = 0 sSFR radial profiles for SF and GV galaxies to observations. simba shows strong central depressions in star formation rate (SFR), sSFR, and gas fraction in GV galaxies and massive SF systems, qualitatively as observed, owing to black hole X-ray feedback, which pushes central gas outwards. Turning off X-ray feedback leads to centrally peaked sSFR profiles as in other simulations. In conflict with observations, simba yields GV galaxies with strongly dropping sSFR profiles beyond ≳Rhalf, regardless of active galactic nucleus feedback. The central depression owes to lowering molecular gas content; the drop in the outskirts owes to reduced star formation efficiency. simba’s satellites have higher central sSFR and lower outskirts sSFR than centrals, in qualitative agreement with observations. At z = 2, simba does not show central depressions in massive SF galaxies, suggesting simba’s X-ray feedback should be more active at high-z. High-resolution tests indicate central sSFR suppression is not sensitive to numerical resolution. Reproducing the central sSFR depression in z = 0 GV galaxies represents a unique success of simba. The remaining discrepancies highlight the importance of SFR and gas profiles in constraining quenching mechanisms. 
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