An Older, More Quiescent Universe from Panchromatic SED Fitting of the 3D-HST Survey

Joel Leja, Benjamin D. Johnson, Charlie Conroy, Pieter Van Dokkum, Joshua S. Speagle, Gabriel Brammer, Ivelina Momcheva, Rosalind Skelton, Katherine E. Whitaker, Marijn Franx, Erica J. Nelson

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151 Citations (SciVal)


Galaxy observations are influenced by many physical parameters: stellar masses, star formation rates (SFRs), star formation histories (SFHs), metallicities, dust, black hole activity, and more. As a result, inferring accurate physical parameters requires high-dimensional models that capture or marginalize over this complexity. Here we reassess inferences of galaxy stellar masses and SFRs using the 14-parameter physical model Prospector- α built in the Prospector Bayesian inference framework. We fit the photometry of 58,461 galaxies from the 3D-HST catalogs at 0.5 < z < 2.5. The resulting stellar masses are ∼0.1-0.3 dex larger than the fiducial masses while remaining consistent with dynamical constraints. This change is primarily due to the systematically older SFHs inferred with Prospector. The SFRs are ∼0.1-1+ dex lower than UV+IR SFRs, with the largest offsets caused by emission from "old" (t > 100 Myr) stars. These new inferences lower the observed cosmic SFR density by ∼0.2 dex and increase the observed stellar mass growth by ∼0.1 dex, finally bringing these two quantities into agreement and implying an older, more quiescent universe than found by previous studies at these redshifts. We corroborate these results by showing that the Prospector- α SFHs are both more physically realistic and much better predictors of the evolution of the stellar mass function. Finally, we highlight examples of observational data that can break degeneracies in the current model; these observations can be incorporated into priors in future models to produce new and more accurate physical parameters.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number140
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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