First Light and Reionisation Epoch Simulations (FLARES) - VI. The colour evolution of galaxies z = 5-15

Christopher Cummiskey Lovell, Stephen M. Wilkins, Aswin P. Vijayan, William J. Roper, Dimitrios Irodotou, Joseph Caruana, Louise Seeyave, Jussi Kuusisto, Peter A. Thomas

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With its exquisite sensitivity, wavelength coverage, and spatial and spectral resolution, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is poised to revolutionize our view of the distant, high-redshift (z > 5) Universe. While Webb's spectroscopic observations will be transformative for the field, photometric observations play a key role in identifying distant objects and providing more comprehensive samples than accessible to spectroscopy alone. In addition to identifying objects, photometric observations can also be used to infer physical properties and thus be used to constrain galaxy formation models. However, inferred physical properties from broad-band photometric observations, particularly in the absence of spectroscopic redshifts, often have large uncertainties. With the development of new tools for forward modelling simulations, it is now routinely possible to predict observational quantities, enabling a direct comparison with observations. With this in mind, in this work, we make predictions for the colour evolution of galaxies at z = 5-15 using the First Light And Reionisation Epoch Simulations (FLARES) cosmological hydrodynamical simulation suite. We predict a complex evolution with time, driven predominantly by strong nebular line emission passing through individual bands. These predictions are in good agreement with existing constraints from Hubble and Spitzer as well as some of the first results from Webb. We also contrast our predictions with other models in the literature: While the general trends are similar, we find key differences, particularly in the strength of features associated with strong nebular line emission. This suggests photometric observations alone should provide useful discriminating power between different models and physical states of galaxies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3227–3235
Number of pages10
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number3
Early online date14 Sept 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2022


  • galaxies: evolution
  • galaxies: formation
  • galaxies: general
  • galaxies: high-redshift
  • galaxies: photometry
  • UKRI
  • STFC
  • ST/K00042X/1
  • ST/P002293/1
  • ST/R002371/1
  • ST/S002502/1
  • ST/R000832/1

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