Observations of massive red galaxies have demonstrated gradual evolution since z = 2, with stellar mass doubling and size quintupling in the last ten billion years. One possible mode for mass and size growth in such galaxies is through minor mergers, which are expected to increase the size of galaxies by the square of the growth in mass. In this thesis we present an analysis of the importance of minor mergers to the evolution of massive red galaxies in the nearby universe. We acquire and process large samples of galaxy observations to study minor mergers before, during and after the interaction takes place. We show that stellar tidal features are found around nearly all nearby ellipticals, suggesting that minor mergers are common. We calculate the implied mass evolution and show that it is in agreement with observations. We then study the faint outskirts of Luminous Red Galaxies by stacking more than 40,000 images and find that their color gradients are consistent with minor mergers and low mass galaxy accretion. In addition, we utilize statistical background subtraction techniques to measure the projected radial distribution of satellite galaxies around massive red galaxies. Our analysis shows that the most probable channel for mass growth in such galaxies is through mergers with significantly lower mass galaxies. Finally, the distribution of satellites around massive red galaxies is consistent with the minor merger model and suggests that most of the stellar mass in these halos is already locked in the central galaxy itself. In conclusion, we find that minor mergers likely play a significant role in the evolution of massive galaxies, even in the nearby universe.
|Advisor:||Dokkum, Pieter G. van|
|Commitee:||Geha, Marla, Padmanabhan, Nikhil, van den Bosch, Frank|
|School Location:||United States -- Connecticut|
|Source:||DAI-B 74/05(E), Dissertation Abstracts International|
|Keywords:||Massive red galaxies, Minor mergers, Stellar mass, Stellar size|
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