Anatomy of a post-starburst minor merger: A multi-wavelength WFC3 study of NGC 4150

R. Mark Crockett, Sugata Kaviraj, Joseph I. Silk, Bradley C. Whitmore, Robert W. O'Connell, Max Mutchler, Bruce Balick, Howard E. Bond, Daniela Calzetti, C. Marcella Carollo, Michael J. Disney, Michael A. Dopita, Jay A. Frogel, Donald N.B. Hall, Jon A. Holtzman, Randy A. Kimble, Patrick J. McCarthy, Francesco Paresce, Abhijit Saha, John T. TraugerAlistair R. Walker, Rogier A. Windhorst, Erick T. Young, Hyunjin Jeong, Sukyoung K. Yi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


We present a spatially resolved near-UV/optical study, using the Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) on board the Hubble Space Telescope, of NGC 4150, a sub-L *, early-type galaxy (ETG) of around 6 × 109 M, which has been observed as part of the WFC3 Early-Release Science Programme. Previous work indicates that this galaxy has a large reservoir of molecular hydrogen gas, exhibits a kinematically decoupled core (a likely indication of recent merging) and strong, central Hβ absorption (indicative of young stars). While relatively uninspiring in its optical image, the core of NGC 4150 shows ubiquitous near-UV emission and remarkable dusty substructure. Our analysis shows this galaxy to lie in the near-UV green valley, and its pixel-by-pixel photometry exhibits a narrow range of near-UV/optical colors that are similar to those of nearby E+A (post-starburst) galaxies and lie between those of M83 (an actively star-forming spiral) and the local quiescent ETG population. We parameterize the properties of the recent star formation (RSF; age, mass fraction, metallicity, and internal dust content) in the NGC 4150 pixels by comparing the observed near-UV/optical photometry to stellar models. The typical age of the RSF is around 0.9 Gyr, consistent with the similarity of the near-UV colors to post-starburst systems, while the morphological structure of the young component supports the proposed merger scenario. The typical RSF metallicity, representative of the metallicity of the gas fuelling star formation, is ∼0.3-0.5 Ż. Assuming that this galaxy is a merger and that the gas is sourced mainly from the infalling companion, these metallicities plausibly indicate the gas-phase metallicity (GPM) of the accreted satellite. Comparison to the local mass-GPM relation suggests (crudely) that the mass of the accreted system is ∼3 × 108 M, making NGC 4150 a 1:20 minor merger. A summation of the pixel RSF mass fractions indicates that the RSF contributes ∼2%-3% of the stellar mass. This work reaffirms our hypothesis that minor mergers play a significant role in the evolution of ETGs at late epochs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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