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Recent star formation in local, morphologically disturbed spheroidal galaxies on the optical red sequence
Kaviraj, Sugata
Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, Volume 408, Issue 1, pp. 170-180. (MNRAS Homepage)
Publication Date:
Astronomy Keywords:
galaxies: elliptical and lenticular, cD, galaxies: evolution, galaxies: interactions, galaxies: starburst
Abstract Copyright:
(c) Journal compilation © 2010 RAS
Bibliographic Code:


We combine Galaxy Evolution Explorer [(GALEX) ultraviolet (UV)] and Sloan Digital Sky Survey [(SDSS) optical] photometry to study the recent star formation histories of ~100 field galaxies on the optical red sequence, a large fraction of which exhibit widespread signs of disturbed morphologies in deep optical imaging that are consistent with recent merging events. More than 70 per cent of bulge-dominated galaxies in this sample show tidal features at a surface brightness limit of mu ~ 28magarcsec-2. We find that, while they inhabit the optical red sequence, they show a wide spread in their UV colours (~4mag), akin to what has been discovered recently in the general early-type population. A strong correlation is found between UV colour and the strength of the tidal distortions, such that the bluest galaxies are more distorted. This strongly suggests that the blue UV colours seen in many nearby early types are driven by (low-level) merger-induced star formation within the last 3Gyrs, contributing less than 10 per cent of the stellar mass. If the ongoing mergers in this sample, which have a median mass ratio of 1:4, are representative of the nearby red merger population, then less than ~25 per cent of the new stellar mass in the remnants is typically added through merger-induced star formation. While the dust extinction in the interstellar medium (ISM) in these galaxies is small (EISMB- V < 0.1), the local dust content of the star-forming regions is, on average, a factor of ~3 higher. Finally, we use our theoretical machinery to provide a recipe for calculating the age of the most recent star formation event (t2) in nearby (z <~ 0.1) red early-type galaxies: logt2(Gyrs) ~ 0.6+/-0.03[(NUV - u) - (g - z) - 1.73+/-0.03], where NUV,u,g and z are the observed photometric magnitudes of the galaxies in the GALEX/SDSS filter sets.
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