We derive the number density evolution of massive field galaxies in the redshift range 0.4 < z < 1.2 using the K-band-selected field galaxy sample from the Munich Near-IR Cluster Survey. We rely on spectroscopically calibrated photometric redshifts to determine distances and absolute magnitudes in the rest-frame K band. To assign mass-to-light ratios, we use an approach that maximizes the stellar mass for any K-band luminosity at any redshift. We take the mass-to-light ratio, Script M/LK, of a simple stellar population that is as old as the universe at the galaxy's redshift as a likely upper limit. This is the most extreme case of pure luminosity evolution, and in a more realistic model Script M/LK will probably decrease faster with redshift because of increased star formation. We compute the number density of galaxies more massive than 2 × 1010, 5 × 1010, and 1 × 1011 h-2 M☉, finding that the integrated stellar mass function is roughly constant for the lowest mass limit and that it decreases with redshift by a factor of ~3 and by a factor of ~6 for the two higher mass limits, respectively. This finding is in qualitative agreement with models of hierarchical galaxy formation, which predict that the number density of ~M* objects is fairly constant while it decreases faster for more massive systems over the redshift range that our data set probes.
- cosmology : observations
- galaxies : evolution
- galaxies : fundamental parameters
- galaxies : luminosity function, mass function