Evidence for TP-AGB stars in high-redshift galaxies, and their effect on deriving stellar population parameters

C. Maraston, E. Daddi, A. Renzini, A. Cimatti, M. Dickinson, C. Papovich, A. Pasquali, N. Pirzkal

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We explore the effects of using different stellar population models on estimates of star formation histories, ages, and masses of high-redshift galaxies by fitting the SEDs with models by Maraston (hereafter M05) and by Bruzual & Charlot (hereafter BC03). We focus on the thermally pulsing asymptotic giant branch (TP-AGB) phase of stellar evolution, whose treatment is a source of major discrepancy. In this respect, BC03 models are representative of other models whose treatment of the TP-AGB phase is similar. Moreover, M05 and BC03 models adopt stellar tracks with different assumptions on convective overshooting. For our experiment we use a sample of high-z (1:4 ≲ z ≲ 2:7) galaxies, for which rest-frame UV spectroscopy and spectroscopic redshifts are available, along with Spitzer IRAC and MIPS photometry from GOODS. The mid-UV spectra of these galaxies exhibit features typical of A- or F-type stars, indicative of ages in the range ∼0.2-2Gyr,when the contribution of TP-AGB stars is expected to be maximum. We find that the TP-AGB phase plays a key role in the interpretation of the Spitzer data,where the rest-frame near-IR is sampled. Generally, M05 models give better fits than BC03 models and indicate systematically lower ages and lower masses (by ∼60%, on average). Photometric redshifts derived using M05 models are also in better agreement with the spectroscopic ones, especially when the rest-frame near-IR fluxes from Spitzer IRAC are included in the fit.We argue that the different results are primarily a consequence of the different treatment of the TP-AGB phase, although other differences in the input stellar evolution also contribute. This work provides a first direct evidence for a strong contribution by TP-AGB stars to the SED of galaxies in the high-redshift universe (z ∼ 2).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)85-96
JournalThe Astrophysical Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 20 Nov 2006


  • galaxies : evolution
  • galaxies : formation
  • galaxies : high-redshift
  • stars : AGBand post-AGB


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