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Journal Article

Color gradients along the quiescent galaxy sequence: clues to quenching and structural growth


Price,  Sedona H.
Infrared and Submillimeter Astronomy, MPI for Extraterrestrial Physics, Max Planck Society;

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Suess, K. A., Kriek, M., Price, S. H., & Barro, G. (2020). Color gradients along the quiescent galaxy sequence: clues to quenching and structural growth. The Astrophysical Journal Letters, 899(2): L26. doi:10.3847/2041-8213/abacc9.

Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0007-714C-5
This Letter examines how the sizes, structures, and color gradients of galaxies change along the quiescent sequence. Our sample consists of ~400 quiescent galaxies at 1.0≤z≤2.5 and 10.1≤logM/M≤11.6 in three CANDELS fields. We exploit deep multi-band HST imaging to derive accurate mass profiles and color gradients, then use an empirical calibration from rest-frame UVJ colors to estimate galaxy ages. We find that -- contrary to previous results -- the youngest quiescent galaxies are not significantly smaller than older quiescent galaxies at fixed stellar mass. These `post-starburst' galaxies only appear smaller in half-light radii because they have systematically flatter color gradients. The strength of color gradients in quiescent galaxies is a clear function of age, with older galaxies exhibiting stronger negative color gradients (i.e., redder centers). Furthermore, we find that the central mass surface density Σ1 is independent of age at fixed stellar mass, and only weakly depends on redshift. This finding implies that the central mass profiles of quiescent galaxies do not significantly change with age; however, we find that older quiescent galaxies have additional mass at large radii. Our results support the idea that building a massive core is a necessary requirement for quenching beyond z=1, and indicate that post-starburst galaxies are the result of a rapid quenching process that requires structural change. Furthermore, our observed color gradient and mass profile evolution supports a scenario where quiescent galaxies grow inside-out via minor mergers.