Evidence for a Major Merger Origin of High Redshift Sub-millimeter Galaxies
Conselice, Christopher J.
Chapman, Scott C.
Windhorst, Rogier A.
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Sub-mm detected galaxies located at redshifts $z > 1$ host a major fraction of the bolometric luminosity at high redshifts due to thermal emission from heated dust grains, yet the nature of these objects remains a mystery. The major problem in understanding their origin is whether the dust heating mechanism is predominantly caused by star formation or active galactic nuclei, and what triggered this activity. We address this issue by examining the structures of a sample of 11 sub-mm galaxies imaged with STIS on the Hubble Space Telescope. We argue that ~61pm21% of these sub-mm sources are undergoing an active major merger using the CAS quantitative morphological system. We rule out at ~5sigma confidence that these sub-mm galaxies are normal Hubble types at high redshift. This merger fraction appears to be higher than for Lyman-break galaxies undergoing mergers at similar redshifts. Using reasonable constraints on the stellar masses of Lyman-Break galaxies and these sub-mm sources, we further argue that at redshifts z~2-3 systems with high stellar masses are more likely than lower mass galaxies to be involved in major mergers.
Conselice, Christopher J., Scott C. Chapman, and Rogier A. Windhorst. 2003. "Evidence for a Major Merger Origin of High Redshift Sub-millimeter Galaxies." The Astrophysical Journal 596(1): 5-L8