Journal Article

Colour gradients in normal and compact early-type galaxies at <i>1 < z < 2</i>

A. Gargiulo, P. Saracco and M. Longhetti

in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

Published on behalf of The Royal Astronomical Society

Volume 412, issue 3, pages 1804-1813
Published in print April 2011 | ISSN: 0035-8711
Published online April 2011 | e-ISSN: 1365-2966 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2966.2010.18018.x
Colour gradients in normal and compact early-type galaxies at 1 < z < 2

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We have derived colour gradients for a sample of 20 early-type galaxies (ETGs) at 1 < zspec < 2 selected from the GOODS-South field. The sample includes both normal ETGs (13) having effective radii comparable to the mean radius of local ones and compact ETGs (seven) having effective radii from two to six times smaller. Colour gradients have been derived in the F606WF850LP bands (UVUrestframe) taking advantage of the ultradeep HST/ACS observations covering this field and providing a spatial resolution of about 0.8 kpc at the redshift of the galaxies. Despite the narrow wavelength baseline covered (1000 Å), sampling approximatively the emission dominated by the same stellar population, we detect significant radial colour variations in 50 per cent of our sample. In particular, we find five ETGs with positive colour gradients (cores bluer than the external regions) and five galaxies with negative colour gradients (cores redder than the external regions), as commonly observed in the local Universe. These results show that at 1 < z < 2, when the Universe was only 3–4 Gyr old, ETGs constituted a composite population of galaxies whose different assembly histories have generated different stellar distributions with the bluest stellar population either in the centre or in the outskirts as well as throughout the whole galaxy. Moreover, we find that compact galaxies seem to preferentially show a blue core while moving towards normal galaxies; central stellar populations become progressively redder. None the less, the narrow baseline covered together with the low statistics still prevents us to be conclusive about a possible physical connection between colour gradients and the degree of compactness of high-z ETGs.

Keywords: galaxies: elliptical and lenticular, cD; galaxies: evolution; galaxies: formation; galaxies: high-redshift; galaxies: stellar content

Journal Article.  6336 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Astronomy and Astrophysics

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