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The When and How of Rapid Quenching at Intermediate-Redshift

Setton, David (2023) The When and How of Rapid Quenching at Intermediate-Redshift. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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One of the most fundamental observations that underpins the study of galaxy evolution is the bimodality between star forming and quiescent galaxies. In the local universe and beyond, the most massive galaxies in tend to be "red-and-dead." Despite the clear evidence for this "quenching" of star formation at early cosmic times, the physical mechanism that drives this transformation is still undetermined. Models invoke a wide range of prescriptions for feedback that vary wildly due to the lack of constraints from data. In this thesis, I provide such constraints by studying samples of young quiescent, or post-starburst, galaxies, with spectroscopy that allows for the precise measurement of their star formation histories.

First, I present work studying the spatially resolved spectroscopy of 6 of the bright post-starburst galaxies using Gemini/GMOS. I find that the majority of the galaxies studied exhibit flat gradients in Hdelta absorption, indicating that their stellar populations are roughly uniform and young out to ~5 kpc. The second study in this work focuses on the structures of post-starburst galaxies as traced by rest-frame optical imaging. I find that post-starburst galaxies have compact sizes, in line with previous work, and that they show very little evolution in their size as a function of the time since quenching. Taken together, these two results paint a picture where post-starburst galaxies have compact star forming progenitors that shut off their star formation uniformly. In the final work of this thesis, I place constraints on the rate of quenching. Using deep spectroscopy from the Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument Survey Validation sample, I measure star formation histories for ~17000 luminous red galaxies. I find a significant increase in the number density of post-starburst samples between z=0.4 and z=0.8. However, I find that true rapid quenchers--galaxies that formed >50% of their stellar mass in the Gyr before quenching--are essentially absent at z<1 and only were a significant part of the galaxy population at earlier cosmic times. This motivates the push of spectroscopic surveys to higher redshift, where complete surveys will have the chance to quantify the rate of rapid quenching when it is occurring.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Setton, Daviddavidsetton@pitt.edudjs1860000-0003-4075-7393
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairBezanson, Rachelrachel.bezanson@pitt.edu0000-0001-5063-8254
Committee MemberGreene, Jennyjgreene@astro.princeton.edu0000-0002-5612-3427
Committee MemberNewman, Jeffreyjanewman@pitt.edu0000-0001-8684-2222
Committee MemberSchneider, Evaneschneider@pitt.edu0000-0001-9735-7484
Committee MemberFreitas, Ayresafreitas@pitt.edu0000-0003-2137-6034
Date: 6 September 2023
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 8 June 2023
Approval Date: 6 September 2023
Submission Date: 23 June 2023
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 175
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Astronomy
Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Physics
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: post-starburst galaxies, quenching, galaxy evolution, galaxy quenching, rapid quenching, galaxy structures, star formation history
Date Deposited: 07 Sep 2023 01:17
Last Modified: 07 Sep 2023 01:17

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