On the (Lack of) Evolution of the Stellar Mass Function of Massive Galaxies from z = 1.5 to 0.4

Lalitwadee Kawinwanichakij, Casey Papovich, Robin Ciardullo, Steven L. Finkelstein, Matthew L. Stevans, Isak G.B. Wold, Shardha Jogee, Sydney Sherman, Jonathan Florez, Caryl Gronwall

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20 Scopus citations


We study the evolution in the number density of galaxies at the highest stellar masses over the past ≈9 Gyr using the Spitzer/HETDEX Exploratory Large-Area Survey (SHELA). SHELA includes complete imaging in eight photometric bands spanning 0.3-4.5 μm over 17.5 deg2 within the SDSS Stripe 82 field. The size of SHELA produces the lowest counting uncertainties and cosmic variance yet for massive galaxies at z 1.0. We study the evolution in the intrinsic stellar mass function (SMF) for galaxies with using a forward-modeling method that takes into full account the statistical and systematic uncertainties on stellar mass. From z = 0.4 to 1.5, the evolution in the massive end of the intrinsic SMF shows minimal change in its shape: The characteristic mass (M) evolves by less than 0.1 dex (±0.05 dex); furthermore, the number density of galaxies with 11 stays roughly constant at (±0.05) from z = 1 to z = 0.4, consistent with no evolution, then declines to =-3.7 (±0.05) at z = 1.5. We discuss the uncertainties in the derived SMF, which are dominated by assumptions in the star formation history and details of stellar population synthesis models for stellar mass estimations. We also study the evolution in the SMF for samples of star-forming and quiescent galaxies selected by their specific star formation rate. For quiescent galaxies, the data are consistent with no (or slight) evolution (0.1 dex) in either the characteristic mass or number density from z 1.5 to the present even after accounting for the systematic uncertainty and the random error in the stellar mass measurement. The lack of number density evolution in the quiescent massive galaxy population means that any mass growth (presumably through "dry" mergers) must balance the rate of stellar mass losses owing to processes of late-stage stellar evolution and the formation of newly quiescent galaxies from the star-forming population. We provide an upper limit on this mass growth from z = 1.0 to 0.4 of ΔM /M = 45% (i.e., 0.16

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number7
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 20 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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