Galaxy Zoo: major galaxy mergers are not a significant quenching pathway

Anna K. Weigel, Kevin Schawinski, Neven Caplar, Alfredo Carpineti, Ross E. Hart, Sugata Kaviraj, William C. Keel, Sandor J. Kruk, Chris J. Lintott, Robert C. Nichol, Brooke D. Simmons, Rebecca J. Smethurst

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We use stellar mass functions to study the properties and the significance of quenching through major galaxy mergers. In addition to SDSS DR7 and Galaxy Zoo 1 data, we use samples of visually selected major galaxy mergers and post-merger galaxies. We determine the stellar mass functions of the stages that we would expect major-merger-quenched galaxies to pass through on their way from the blue cloud to the red sequence: (1) major merger, (2) post-merger, (3) blue early type, (4) green early type, and (5) red early type. Based on their similar mass function shapes, we conclude that major mergers are likely to form an evolutionary sequence from star formation to quiescence via quenching. Relative to all blue galaxies, the major-merger fraction increases as a function of stellar mass. Major-merger quenching is inconsistent with the mass and environment quenching model. At $z\sim 0$, major-merger-quenched galaxies are unlikely to constitute the majority of galaxies that transition through the green valley. Furthermore, between $z\sim 0-0.5$, major-merger-quenched galaxies account for 1%–5% of all quenched galaxies at a given stellar mass. Major galaxy mergers are therefore not a significant quenching pathway, neither at $z\sim 0$ nor within the last 5 Gyr. The majority of red galaxies must have been quenched through an alternative quenching mechanism that causes a slow blue to red evolution.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages28
JournalThe Astrophysical Journal
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 21 Aug 2017


  • galaxies: evolution
  • galaxies: interactions
  • glaxies: luminosity function, mass function


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