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Paper: The Assembly History of Massive Galaxies: What Do We Know?
Volume: 390, Pathways Through an Eclectic Universe
Page: 403
Authors: Conselice, C.J.
Abstract: Understanding the formation history of massive galaxies is one of the most popular and longstanding problems in astronomy, with observations and theory addressing how and when these systems assembled. Since the most massive galaxies in today’s Universe, with M∗ >1011M, are nearly all elliptical with uniform old stellar populations, we must probe higher redshifts to discover their full origins. A recent consensus has developed that nearly all M∗ >1011M galaxies we see today were established by z ∼ 1, with at most a factor of two growth in stellar mass and number densities at lower redshifts. We review the evidence for this and discuss how recent observations of star formation rates, colors, and morphologies of massive galaxies at z < 1 with M∗ >1011M show that these systems are still experiencing some evolution. Massive galaxies undergo on average a single major merger at z < 1.5, and roughly half are experiencing star formation at the same redshifts. The highest mass galaxies, with M >1011.5M, appear in similar abundance at z < 2, suggesting that extremely massive galaxies are mostly formed very early in the Universe. Observations at z > 1.5 demonstrate that major galaxy mergers are the primary method for assembling these massive galaxies, with nearly all of this merging occurring at z > 2, with on average four to five major mergers taking place at z = 1.5–3.
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