Galaxy Zoo: an independent look at the evolution of the bar fraction over the last eight billion years from HST-COSMOS

Thomas Melvin, Karen Masters, Chris Lintott, Robert C. Nichol, Brooke Simmons, Steven P. Bamford, Kevin R. V. Casteels, Edmond Cheung, Edward M. Edmondson, Lucy Fortson, Kevin Schawinski, Ramin A. Skibba, Arfon M. Smith, Kyle W. Willett

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We measure the redshift evolution of the bar fraction in a sample of 2380 visually selected disc galaxies found in Cosmic Evolution Survey (COSMOS) Hubble Space Telescope (HST) images. The visual classifications used both to identify the disc sample and to indicate the presence of stellar bars were provided by citizen scientists via the Galaxy Zoo: Hubble (GZH) project. We find that the overall bar fraction decreases by a factor of 2, from 22 ± 5 per cent at z = 0.4 (tlb = 4.2 Gyr) to 11 ± 2 per cent at z = 1.0 (tlb = 7.8 Gyr), consistent with previous analysis. We show that this decrease, of the strong bar fraction in a volume limited sample of massive disc galaxies [stellar mass limit of log (M/M) ≥ 10.0], cannot be due to redshift-dependent biases hiding either bars or disc galaxies at higher redshifts. Splitting our sample into three bins of mass we find that the decrease in bar fraction is most prominent in the highest mass bin, while the lower mass discs in our sample show a more modest evolution. We also include a sample of 98 red disc galaxies. These galaxies have a high bar fraction (45 ± 5 per cent), and are missing from other COSMOS samples which used SED fitting or colours to identify high-redshift discs. Our results are consistent with a picture in which the evolution of massive disc galaxies begins to be affected by slow (secular) internal process at z ∼ 1. We discuss possible connections of the decrease in bar fraction to the redshift, including the growth of stable disc galaxies, mass evolution of the gas content in disc galaxies, as well as the mass-dependent effects of tidal interactions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2882-2897
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number4
Early online date16 Jan 2014
Publication statusPublished - 11 Mar 2014


  • galaxies: evolution
  • galaxies: spiral
  • galaxies: structure


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