Mon. Not. R. Astron. Soc., 377, 787-805 (2007/May-2)
Properties of luminous red galaxies in the Sloan Digital Sky Survey.
BARBER T., MEIKSIN A. and MURPHY T.
Abstract (from CDS):
We perform population-synthesis modelling of a magnitude-limited sample of 4391 luminous red galaxies selected from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey Data Release 4 (SDSS DR4). We fit measured spectral indices using a large library of high-resolution spectra, covering a wide range of metallicities and assuming an exponentially decaying star formation rate punctuated by bursts, to obtain median-likelihood estimates for the light-weighted age, metallicity, stellar mass and internal extinction for the galaxies. The ages lie predominantly in the range 4-10 Gyr, peaking near 6 Gyr, with metallicities in the range -0.4 < [Z/H] < 0.4, peaking at [Z/H] ~ 0.2. Only a few per cent of the spectra are better fitted allowing for a burst in addition to continuous star formation. For these systems, typically one-quarter to one-third of the stars are formed in the burst. The total stellar masses of all the galaxies are confined to a very narrow range around ∼3x1011M☉, consistent with the expected homogeneity of the sample. Our results broadly agree with those of previous groups using an independent population-synthesis code. We find, however, that our choice in priors results in ages 1-2 Gyr smaller, decreasing the peak formation epoch from about z = 2.3 to 1.3 for the stars. To describe the distribution in measured mean metallicity of the galaxies, we develop a metal evolution model incorporating stochastic star formation quenching motivated by recent attempts to account for the apparent `antihierarchical' formation of elliptical galaxies. Two scenarios emerge, a closed box with an effective stellar yield of 0.26, and an accreting box with an effective stellar yield of 0.10. Both scenarios require an initial mass function weighted towards massive stars. They also require characteristic star formation quenching times of about 108 yr, the expected lifetime of luminous quasi-stellar objects. The models predict an anticorrelation between the age and mean metallicity of the galaxies similar to that observed.