The colour of galaxies in distant groups

M.L. Balogh, S.L. McGee, D. Wilman, R.G. Bower, G. Hau, S.L. Morris, J.S. Mulchaey, A. Oemler, L. Parker, S. Gwyn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

59 Citations (Scopus)


We present new optical and near-infrared imaging for a sample of 98 spectroscopically selected galaxy groups at 0.25 < z < 0.55, most of which have velocity dispersions σ < 500 km s-1. We use point spread function matched aperture photometry to measure accurate colours for group members and the surrounding field population. The sample is statistically complete above a stellar mass limit of approximately M = 1 × 10 10 M⊙. The overall colour distribution is bimodal in both the field and group samples; but, at fixed luminosity the fraction of group galaxies populating the red peak is larger, by ∼20 ± 7 per cent, than that of the field. In particular, group members with early-type morphologies, as identified in Hubble Space Telescope imaging, exhibit a tight red sequence, similar to that seen for more massive clusters. Using optical and near-infrared colours, including data from the Spitzer Space Telescope, we show that approximately 20-30 per cent of galaxies on the red sequence may be dust-reddened galaxies with non-negligible star formation and early-spiral morphologies. This is true of both the field and group samples, and shows little dependence on near-infrared luminosity. Thus, the fraction of bright ( 0.4MK < -22) group members with no sign of star formation or active galactic nuclei activity, as identified by their colours or [O ii] emission, is 54 ± 6 per cent. Our field sample, which includes galaxies in all environments, contains 35 ± 3 per cent of such inactive galaxies, consistent with the amount expected if all such galaxies are located in groups and clusters. This reinforces our earlier conclusions that dense environments at z ≲ 0.5 are associated with a premature cessation of star formation in some galaxies; in particular, we find no evidence for significantly enhanced star formation in these environments. Simple galaxy formation models predict a quenching of star formation in groups that is too efficient, overpopulating the red sequence. Attempts to fix this by increasing the time-scale of this quenching equally for all group members distort the colour distribution in a way that is inconsistent with observations. © 2009 RAS.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)754-768
Number of pages15
JournalRoyal Astronomical Society. Monthly Notices
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2009

Bibliographical note

Export Date: 15 August 2017


Correspondence Address: Balogh, M. L.; Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, ON N2L 3G1, Canada; email:

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  • Galaxies: clusters: general
  • Galaxies: evolution


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