A surprisingly high pair fraction for extremely massive galaxies atz∼ 3 in the GOODS NICMOS survey

Asa F. L. Bluck, Christopher J. Conselice, Rychard J. Bouwens, Emanuele Daddi, Mark Dickinson, Casey Papovich, Haojing Yan
2009 Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society: Letters  
We calculate the major pair fraction and derive the major merger fraction and rate for 82 massive ($M_{*}>10^{11}M_{\odot}$) galaxies at $1.7 < z < 3.0$ utilising deep HST NICMOS data taken in the GOODS North and South fields. For the first time, our NICMOS data provides imaging with sufficient angular resolution and depth to collate a sufficiently large sample of massive galaxies at z $>$ 1.5 to reliably measure their pair fraction history. We find strong evidence that the pair fraction of
more » ... air fraction of massive galaxies evolves with redshift. We calculate a pair fraction of $f_{m}$ = 0.29 +/- 0.06 for our whole sample at $1.7 < z < 3.0$. Specifically, we fit a power law function of the form $f_{m}=f_{0}(1+z)^{m}$ to a combined sample of low redshift data from Conselice et al. (2007) and recently acquired high redshift data from the GOODS NICMOS Survey. We find a best fit to the free parameters of $f_{0}$ = 0.008 +/- 0.003 and $m$ = 3.0 +/- 0.4. We go on to fit a theoretically motivated Press-Schechter curve to this data. This Press-Schechter fit, and the data, show no sign of levelling off or turning over, implying that the merger fraction of massive galaxies continues to rise with redshift out to z $\sim$ 3. Since previous work has established that the merger fraction for lower mass galaxies turns over at z $\sim$ 1.5 - 2.0, this is evidence that higher mass galaxies experience more mergers earlier than their lower mass counterparts, i.e. a galaxy assembly downsizing. Finally, we calculate a merger rate at z = 2.6 of $\Re$ $<$ 5 $\times$ 10$^{5}$ Gpc$^{-3}$ Gyr$^{-1}$, which experiences no significant change to $\Re$ $<$ 1.2 $\times$ 10$^{5}$ Gpc$^{-3}$ Gyr$^{-1}$ at z = 0.5. This corresponds to an average $M_{*}>10^{11}M_{\odot}$ galaxy experiencing 1.7 +/- 0.5 mergers between z = 3 and z = 0.
doi:10.1111/j.1745-3933.2008.00608.x fatcat:df6gfgoxdnd37a6gv5jqhi2xlq