Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

The star formation histories of z?1 post-starburst galaxies

Wild, Vivienne; Aldeen, Laith Taj; Carnall, Adam; Maltby, David; Almaini, Omar; Werle, Ariel; Wilkinson, Aaron; Rowlands, Kate; Bolzonella, Micol; Castellano, Marco; Gargiulo, Adriana; McLure, Ross; Pentericci, Laura; Pozzetti, Lucia

The star formation histories of z?1 post-starburst galaxies Thumbnail


Vivienne Wild

Laith Taj Aldeen

Adam Carnall

Professor of Astrophysics

Ariel Werle

Aaron Wilkinson

Kate Rowlands

Micol Bolzonella

Marco Castellano

Adriana Gargiulo

Ross McLure

Laura Pentericci

Lucia Pozzetti


We present the star formation histories of 39 galaxies with high-quality rest-frame optical spectra at 0.5 < z < 1.3 selected to have strong Balmer absorption lines and/or Balmer break, and compare to a sample of spectroscopically selected quiescent galaxies at the same redshift. Photometric selection identifies a majority of objects that have clear evidence for a recent short-lived burst of star formation within the last 1.5 Gyr, i.e. ‘post-starburst’ galaxies, however we show that good quality continuum spectra are required to obtain physical parameters such as burst mass fraction and burst age. Dust attenuation appears to be the primary cause for misidentification of post-starburst galaxies, leading to contamination in spectroscopic samples where only the [O ii] emission line is available, as well as a small fraction of objects lost from photometric samples. The 31 confirmed post-starburst galaxies have formed 40–90 per cent of their stellar mass in the last 1–1.5 Gyr. We use the derived star formation histories to find that the post-starburst galaxies are visible photometrically for 0.5–1 Gyr. This allows us to update a previous analysis to suggest that 25–50 per cent of the growth of the red sequence at z ∼ 1 could be caused by a starburst followed by rapid quenching. We use the inferred maximum historical star formation rates of several 100–1000 M⊙ yr−1 and updated visibility times to confirm that sub-mm galaxies are likely progenitors of post-starburst galaxies. The short quenching time-scales of 100–200 Myr are consistent with cosmological hydrodynamic models in which rapid quenching is caused by the mechanical expulsion of gas due to an acive galactic neucleus.


Wild, V., Aldeen, L. T., Carnall, A., Maltby, D., Almaini, O., Werle, A., …Pozzetti, L. (2020). The star formation histories of z∼1 post-starburst galaxies. Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 494(1), 529–548.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Mar 5, 2020
Online Publication Date Mar 13, 2020
Publication Date 2020-05
Deposit Date Jan 18, 2021
Publicly Available Date Jan 19, 2021
Journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Print ISSN 0035-8711
Electronic ISSN 1365-2966
Publisher Oxford University Press (OUP)
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 494
Issue 1
Pages 529–548
Keywords Space and Planetary Science; Astronomy and Astrophysics
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information This is a pre-copyedited, author-produced PDF of an article accepted for publication in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society following peer review. The version of record Vivienne Wild, Laith Taj Aldeen, Adam Carnall, David Maltby, Omar Almaini, Ariel Werle, Aaron Wilkinson, Kate Rowlands, Micol Bolzonella, Marco Castellano, Adriana Gargiulo, Ross McLure, Laura Pentericci, Lucia Pozzetti, The star formation histories of z ∼ 1 post-starburst galaxies, Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, Volume 494, Issue 1, May 2020, Pages 529–548 is available online at:


You might also like

Downloadable Citations