Dense Cores in Galaxies Out to z = 2.5 in SDSS, UltraVISTA, and the Five 3D-HST/CANDELS Fields

P. G. van Dokkum, R. Bezanson, A. van der Wel, E. J. Nelson, I. Momcheva, R. E. Skelton, K. E. Whitaker, G. Brammer, C. Conroy, N. M. Förster Schreiber, M. Fumagalli, M. Kriek, I. Labbé, J. Leja, D. Marchesini, A. Muzzin, P. Oesch, S. Wuyts

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The dense interiors of massive galaxies are among the most intriguing environments in the universe. In this paper,we ask when these dense cores were formed and determine how galaxies gradually assembled around them. We select galaxies that have a stellar mass >3 × 1010 M ☉ inside r = 1 kpc out to z = 2.5, using the 3D-HST survey and data at low redshift. Remarkably, the number density of galaxies with dense cores appears to have decreased from z = 2.5 to the present. This decrease is probably mostly due to stellar mass loss and the resulting adiabatic expansion, with some contribution from merging. We infer that dense cores were mostly formed at z > 2.5, consistent with their largely quiescent stellar populations. While the cores appear to form early, the galaxies in which they reside show strong evolution: their total masses increase by a factor of 2-3 from z = 2.5 to z = 0 and their effective radii increase by a factor of 5-6. As a result, the contribution of dense cores to the total mass of the galaxies in which they reside decreases from ~50% at z = 2.5 to ~15% at z = 0. Because of their early formation, the contribution of dense cores to the total stellar mass budget of the universe is a strong function of redshift. The stars in cores with M 1 kpc > 3 × 1010 M ☉ make up ~0.1% of the stellar mass density of the universe today but 10%-20% at z ~ 2, depending on their initial mass function. The formation of these cores required the conversion of ~1011 M ☉ of gas into stars within ~1 kpc, while preventing significant star formation at larger radii.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages18
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
Early online date24 Jul 2014
Publication statusPublished - 10 Aug 2014



  • Cosmology: observations
  • galaxies: evolution
  • galaxy: formation
  • galaxy: structure

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