The evolution of the color gradients of early-type cluster galaxies

R. P. Saglia, C Maraston, L. Greggio, R. Bender, B. Ziegler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We investigate the origin of color gradients in cluster early-type galaxies to probe whether pure age or pure metallicity gradients can explain the observed data in local and distant (z approx 0.4) samples. We measure the surface brightness profiles of the 20 brightest early-type galaxies of CL0949+44 (hereafter CL0949) at redshift z=0.35-0.38 from HST WF2 frames taken in the filters F555W, F675W, F814W. We determine the color profiles (V-R)(r), (V-I)(r), and (R-I)(r) as a function of the radial distance r in arcsec, and fit logarithmic gradients in the range -0.2 to 0.1 mag per decade. These values are similar to what is found locally for the colors (U-B), (U-V), (B-V) which approximately match the (V-R), (V-I), (R-I) at redshift approx 0.4. We analyse the results with up to date stellar population models. We find that passive evolution of metallicity gradients (approx 0.2 dex per radial decade) provides a consistent explanation of the local and distant galaxies' data. Invoking pure age gradients (with fixed metallicity) to explain local color gradients produces too steep gradients at redshifts z approx 0.4. Pure age gradients are consistent with the data only if large present day ages (>=15 Gyr) are assumed for the galaxy centers.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)911-934
JournalAstronomy and Astrophysics
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2000


  • galaxies : elliptical and lenticular, cD
  • galaxies : kinematics and dynamics
  • galaxies : abundances
  • galaxies : formation


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