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Observational Constraints on the Merger History of Galaxies since z ≈ 6: Probabilistic Galaxy Pair Counts in the CANDELS Fields

Duncan, Kenneth; Conselice, Christopher J.; Mundy, Carl; Bell, Eric; Donley, Jennifer; Galametz, Audrey; Guo, Yicheng; Grogin, Norman A.; Hathi, Nimish; Kartaltepe, Jeyhan; Kocevski, Dale; Koekemoer, Anton M.; Pérez-González, Pablo G.; Mantha, Kameswara B.; Snyder, Gregory F.; Stefanon, Mauro

Authors

Kenneth Duncan

Christopher J. Conselice

Carl Mundy

Eric Bell

Jennifer Donley

Audrey Galametz

Yicheng Guo

Norman A. Grogin

Nimish Hathi

Jeyhan Kartaltepe

Dale Kocevski

Anton M. Koekemoer

Pablo G. Pérez-González

Kameswara B. Mantha

Gregory F. Snyder

Mauro Stefanon



Abstract

Galaxy mergers are expected to have a significant role in the mass assembly of galaxies in the early universe, but there are very few observational constraints on the merger history of galaxies at z ≥ 2. We present the first study of galaxy major mergers (mass ratios ≤1:4) in mass-selected samples out to z ≈ 6. Using all five fields of the Hubble Space Telescope/CANDELS survey and a probabilistic pair-count methodology that incorporates the full photometric redshift posteriors and corrections for stellar mass completeness, we measure galaxy pair-counts for projected separations between 5 and 30 kpc in stellar mass selected samples at 9.7 ≤ log10(M /M ⊙) ≤10.3 and log10(M /M ⊙) ≥10.3. We find that the major merger pair fraction rises with redshift to z ≈ 6 proportional to (1 + z) m , with m = 0.8 ± 0.2 (m = 1.8 ± 0.2) for log10(M /M ⊙) > 10.3 (9.7 ≤ log10(M /M ⊙) ≤ 10.3). Investigating the pair fraction as a function of mass ratio between 1:20 and 1:1, we find no evidence for a strong evolution in the relative numbers of minor to major mergers out to z ≤ 3. Using evolving merger timescales, we find that the merger rate per galaxy ( ) rises rapidly from 0.07 ± 0.01 Gyr−1 at z ≤ 1 to 7.6 ± 2.7 Gyr−1 at z = 6 for galaxies at log10(M /M ⊙) ≥ 10.3. The corresponding comoving major merger rate density remains roughly constant during this time, with rates of Γ ≈ 10−4 Gyr−1 Mpc−3. Based on the observed merger rates per galaxy, we infer specific mass accretion rates from major mergers that are comparable to the specific star formation rates for the same mass galaxies at z ≥ 3 - observational evidence that mergers are as important a mechanism for building up mass at high redshift as in situ star formation.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date May 8, 2019
Journal Astrophysical Journal
Print ISSN 0004-637X
Electronic ISSN 1538-4357
Publisher American Astronomical Society
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 876
Issue 2
Article Number 110
APA6 Citation Duncan, K., Conselice, C. J., Mundy, C., Bell, E., Donley, J., Galametz, A., …Stefanon, M. (2019). Observational Constraints on the Merger History of Galaxies since z ≈ 6: Probabilistic Galaxy Pair Counts in the CANDELS Fields. Astrophysical Journal, 876(2), https://doi.org/10.3847/1538-4357/ab148a
DOI https://doi.org/10.3847/1538-4357/ab148a
Keywords Galaxies: formation; Galaxies: high-redshift; Galaxies: interactions
Publisher URL https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.3847/1538-4357/ab148a
Additional Information Journal title: The Astrophysical Journal; Article type: paper; Article title: Observational Constraints on the Merger History of Galaxies since z ≈ 6: Probabilistic Galaxy Pair Counts in the CANDELS Fields; Copyright information: © 2019. The American Astronomical Society. All rights reserved.; Date received: 2018-09-29; Date accepted: 2019-03-27; Online publication date: 2019-05-08

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