The green valley is a red herring: Galaxy Zoo reveals two evolutionary pathways towards quenching of star formation in early-and late-type galaxies

Kevin Schawinski, C. Megan Urry, Brooke D. Simmons, Lucy Fortson, Sugata Kaviraj, William C. Keel, Chris J. Lintott, Karen L. Masters, Robert C. Nichol, Marc Sarzi, Ramin Skibba, Ezequiel Treister, Kyle W. Willett, O. Ivy Wong, Sukyoung K. Yi

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282 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

We use SDSS+GALEX+Galaxy Zoo data to study the quenching of star formation in lowredshift galaxies. We show that the green valley between the blue cloud of star-forming galaxies and the red sequence of quiescent galaxies in the colour-mass diagram is not a single transitional state through which most blue galaxies evolve into red galaxies. Rather, an analysis that takes morphology into account makes clear that only a small population of blue early-type galaxies move rapidly across the green valley after the morphologies are transformed from disc to spheroid and star formation is quenched rapidly. In contrast, the majority of blue star-forming galaxies have significant discs, and they retain their late-type morphologies as their star formation rates decline very slowly. We summarize a range of observations that lead to these conclusions, including UV-optical colours and halo masses, which both show a striking dependence on morphological type. We interpret these results in terms of the evolution of cosmic gas supply and gas reservoirs. We conclude that late-type galaxies are consistent with a scenario where the cosmic supply of gas is shut off, perhaps at a critical halo mass, followed by a slow exhaustion of the remaining gas over several Gyr, driven by secular and/or environmental processes. In contrast, early-type galaxies require a scenario where the gas supply and gas reservoir are destroyed virtually instantaneously, with rapid quenching accompanied by a morphological transformation from disc to spheroid. This gas reservoir destruction could be the consequence of a major merger, which in most cases transforms galaxies from disc to elliptical morphology, and mergers could play a role in inducing black hole accretion and possibly active galactic nuclei feedback.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)889-907
Number of pages19
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Volume440
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2014 Apr

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science

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    Schawinski, K., Urry, C. M., Simmons, B. D., Fortson, L., Kaviraj, S., Keel, W. C., Lintott, C. J., Masters, K. L., Nichol, R. C., Sarzi, M., Skibba, R., Treister, E., Willett, K. W., Wong, O. I., & Yi, S. K. (2014). The green valley is a red herring: Galaxy Zoo reveals two evolutionary pathways towards quenching of star formation in early-and late-type galaxies. Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 440(1), 889-907. https://doi.org/10.1093/mnras/stu327