We present the analysis of the faint galaxy population in the Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) Early Release Observation fields VV 29 (UGC 10214) and NGC 4676. These observations cover a total area of 26.3 arcmin 2 and have depths close to that of the Hubble Deep Fields in the deepest part of the VV 29 image, with 10 σ detection limits for point sources of 27.8, 27.6, and 27.2 AB magnitudes in the g F475W, V F606W, and I F814W bands, respectively. Measuring the faint galaxy number count distribution is a difficult task, with different groups arriving at widely varying results even on the same data set. Here we attempt to thoroughly consider all aspects relevant for faint galaxy counting and photometry, developing methods that are based on public software and that are easily reproducible by other astronomers. Using simulations we determine the best SExtractor parameters for the detection of faint galaxies in deep Hubble Space Telescope observations, paying special attention to the issue of deblending, which significantly affects the normalization and shape of the number count distribution. We confirm, as claimed by Bernstein, Freedman, & Madore, that Kron-like magnitudes, such as the ones generated by SExtractor, can miss more than half of the light of faint galaxies, what dramatically affects the slope of the number counts. We show how to correct for this effect, which depends sensitively not only on the characteristics of the observations, but also on the choice of SExtractor parameters. We present catalogs for the VV 29 and NGC 4676 fields with photometry in the F475W, F606W, and F814W bands. We also show that combining the Bayesian software BPZ with superb ACS data and new spectral templates enables us to estimate reliable photometric redshifts for a significant fraction of galaxies with as few as three filters. After correcting for selection effects, we measure slopes of 0.32 ± 0.01 for 22 < g F475W < 28, 0.34 ± 0.01 for 22 < V F606W < 27.5, and 0.33 ± 0.01 for 22 < m F814W < 27. The counts do not flatten (except perhaps in the F475W filter), up to the depth of our observations. Our results agree well with those of Bernstein, Freedman, & Madore, who used different data sets and techniques, and show that it is possible to perform consistent measurements of galaxy number counts if the selection effects are properly considered. We find that the faint counts m AB > 25.5 can be well approximated in all our filters by a passive luminosity evolution model based on the COMBO-17 luminosity function (α = -1.5), with a strong merging rate following the prescription of Glazebrook et al., φ* ∝ (1 + Qz), with Q = 4.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Astronomy and Astrophysics
- Space and Planetary Science