Modelling the ages and metallicities of early-type galaxies in Fundamental plane space

L. A. Porter, R. S. Somerville, J. R. Primack, D. J. Croton, M. D. Covington, G. J. Graves, S. M. Faber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Recent observations have probed the formation histories of nearby elliptical galaxies by tracking correlations between the stellar population parameters, age and metallicity, and the structural parameters that enter the Fundamental Plane, size Re, and velocity dispersion σ. These studies have found intriguing correlations between these four parameters. In this work, we make use of a semi-analytic model, based on halo merger trees extracted from the Bolshoi cosmological simulation, that predicts the structural properties of spheroid-dominated galaxies based on an analytic model that has been tested and calibrated against an extensive suite of hydrodynamic+N-body binary merger simulations. We predict the Re, σ, luminosity, age, and metallicity of spheroid-dominated galaxies, enabling us to compare directly to observations. Our model predicts a strong correlation between age and σ for early-type galaxies, and no significant correlation between age and radius, in agreement with observations. In addition, we predict a strong correlation between metallicity and σ, and a weak correlation between metallicity and Re, in qualitative agreement with observations. We find that the correlations with σ arise as a result of the strong link between σ and the galaxy's assembly time. Minor mergers produce a large change in radius while leaving σ nearly the same, which explains the weaker trends with radius.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3092-3104
Number of pages13
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 5 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


  • Galaxies: elliptical and lenticular, cD
  • Galaxies: evolution
  • Galaxies: formation
  • Galaxies: interactions

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