The bright end of the galaxy luminosity function at z≃7: before the onset of mass quenching?

R. A. A. Bowler, J. S. Dunlop, R. J. McLure, A. B. Rogers, H. J. McCracken, B. Milvang-Jensen, H. Furusawa, J. P. U. Fynbo, Y. Taniguchi, J. Afonso, M. N. Bremer, O. Le Fèvre

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

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We present the results of a new search for bright star-forming galaxies at redshift zz ≃ 7 within the UltraVISTA second data release (DR2) and UKIDSS (UKIRT Infrared Deep Sky Survey) UDS (Ultra Deep Survey) DR10 data, which together provide 1.65 deg2 of near-infrared imaging with overlapping optical and Spitzer data. Using a full photometric redshift analysis, to identify high-redshift galaxies and reject contaminants, we have selected a sample of 34 luminous (−22.7<MUV<−21.2−22.7<MUV<−21.2) galaxies with 6.5 < zz < 7.5. Crucially, the deeper imaging provided by UltraVISTA DR2 confirms all of the robust objects previously uncovered by Bowler et al., validating our selection technique. Our new expanded galaxy sample includes the most massive galaxies known at zz ≃ 7, with M* ≃ 1010 M⊙, and the majority are resolved, consistent with larger sizes (r1/2 ≃ 1–1.5 kpc) than displayed by less massive galaxies. From our final robust sample, we determine the form of the bright end of the rest-frame UV galaxy luminosity function (LF) at zz ≃ 7, providing strong evidence that it does not decline as steeply as predicted by the Schechter-function fit to fainter data. We exclude the possibility that this is due to either gravitational lensing, or significant contamination of our galaxy sample by active galactic nuclei (AGN). Rather, our results favour a double power-law form for the galaxy LF at high redshift, or, more interestingly, an LF which simply follows the form of the dark matter halo mass function at bright magnitudes. This suggests that the physical mechanism which inhibits star formation activity in massive galaxies (i.e. AGN feedback or some other form of ‘mass quenching’) has yet to impact on the observable galaxy LF at zz ≃ 7, a conclusion supported by the estimated masses of our brightest galaxies which have only just reached a mass comparable to the critical ‘quenching mass’ of M* ≃ 1010.2 M⊙ derived from studies of the mass function of star-forming galaxies at lower redshift.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2810-2842
Number of pages33
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number3
Early online date12 Apr 2014
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2014


  • galaxies: evolution
  • galaxies: formation
  • galaxies: high-redshift


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