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The diverse evolutionary pathways of post-starburst galaxies

Pawlik, MM, McAlpine, S, Trayford, JW, Wild, V, Bower, R, Crain, RA, Schaller, M and Schaye, J (2019) The diverse evolutionary pathways of post-starburst galaxies. Nature Astronomy. ISSN 2397-3366

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Abstract

About 35 years ago a class of galaxies with unusually strong Balmer absorption lines and weak emission lines was discovered in distant galaxy clusters. These objects, alternatively referred to as post-starburst, E+A or k+a galaxies, are now known to occur in all environments and at all redshifts, with many exhibiting compact morphologies and low-surface brightness features indicative of past galaxy mergers. They are commonly thought to represent galaxies that are transitioning from blue to red sequence, making them critical to our understanding of the origins of galaxy bimodality. However, recent observational studies have questioned this simple interpretation. From observations alone, it is challenging to disentangle the different mechanisms that lead to the quenching of star formation in galaxies. Here we present examples of three different evolutionary pathways that lead to galaxies with strong Balmer absorption lines in the EAGLE simulation: classical blue-to-red quenching, blue-to-blue cycle and red-to-red rejuvenation. The first two are found in both post-starburst galaxies and galaxies with truncated star formation. Each pathway is consistent with scenarios hypothesised for observational samples. The fact that 'post-starburst' signatures can be attained via various evolutionary channels explains the diversity of observed properties, and lends support to the idea that slower quenching channels are important at low redshift.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: astro-ph.GA; astro-ph.GA
Subjects: Q Science > QB Astronomy
Q Science > QC Physics
Divisions: Astrophysics Research Institute
Publisher: Nature Publishing Group
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Date Deposited: 27 Mar 2019 11:13
Last Modified: 27 Mar 2019 11:21
DOI or Identification number: 10.1038/s41550-019-0725-z
URI: http://researchonline.ljmu.ac.uk/id/eprint/10438

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