Exploring the chemical link between local ellipticals and their high-redshift progenitors

Joel Leja, Pieter G. Van Dokkum, Ivelina Momcheva, Gabriel Brammer, Rosalind E. Skelton, Katherine E. Whitaker, Brett H. Andrews, Marijn Franx, Mariska Kriek, Arjen Van Der Wel, Rachel Bezanson, Charlie Conroy, Natascha Förster Schreiber, Erica Nelson, Shannon G. Patel

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15 Scopus citations


We present Keck/MOSFIRE K-band spectroscopy of the first mass-selected sample of galaxies at z ∼ 2.3. Targets are selected from the 3D-Hubble Space Telescope Treasury survey. The six detected galaxies have a mean [N II]λ6584/Hα ratio of 0.27 ± 0.01, with a small standard deviation of 0.05. This mean value is similar to that of UV-selected galaxies of the same mass. The mean gas-phase oxygen abundance inferred from the [N II]/Hα ratios depends on the calibration method, and ranges from 12+log(O/H)gas = 8.57 for the Pettini & Pagel calibration to 12+log(O/H)gas = 8.87 for the Maiolino et al. calibration. Measurements of the stellar oxygen abundance in nearby quiescent galaxies with the same number density indicate 12+log(O/H)stars = 8.95, similar to the gas-phase abundances of the z ∼ 2.3 galaxies if the Maiolino et al. calibration is used. This suggests that these high-redshift star forming galaxies may be progenitors of today's massive early-type galaxies. The main uncertainties are the absolute calibration of the gas-phase oxygen abundance and the incompleteness of the z ∼ 2.3 sample: the galaxies with detected Hα tend to be larger and have higher star formation rates than the galaxies without detected Hα, and we may still be missing the most dust-obscured progenitors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberL24
JournalAstrophysical Journal Letters
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 1 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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