The Assembly of Milky-Way-like Galaxies Since z 2.5

P. G. van Dokkum, J. Leja, E. J. Nelson, S. Patel, R. E. Skelton, I. Momcheva, G. Brammer, K. E. Whitaker, B. Lundgren, M. Fumagalli, C. Conroy, N. Förster Schreiber, M. Franx, M. Kriek, I. Labbé, D. Marchesini, H. W. Rix, A. van der Wel, S. Wuyts

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Galaxies with the mass of the Milky Way dominate the stellar mass density of the universe but it is uncertain how and when they were assembled. Here we study progenitors of these galaxies out to z = 2.5, using data from the 3D-HST and CANDELS Treasury surveys. We find that galaxies with present-day stellar masses of log (M) ≈ 10.7 built ~90% of their stellar mass since z = 2.5, with most of the star formation occurring before z = 1. In marked contrast to the assembly history of massive elliptical galaxies, mass growth is not limited to large radii: the mass in the central 2 kpc of the galaxies increased by a factor of $3.2^{+0.8}_{-0.7}$ between z = 2.5 and z = 1. We therefore rule out simple models in which bulges were fully assembled at high redshift and disks gradually formed around them. Instead, bulges (and black holes) likely formed in lockstep with disks, through bar instabilities, migration, or other processes. We find that after z = 1 the growth in the central regions gradually stopped and the disk continued to be built up, consistent with recent studies of the gas distributions in z ~ 1 galaxies and the properties of many spiral galaxies today.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberL35
Number of pages7
JournalThe Astrophysical Journal Letters
Issue number2
Early online date26 Jun 2013
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2013


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


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