The slow death (or rebirth?) of extended star formation in $z \sim 0.1$ green valley early-type galaxies

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The American Astronomical Society
UV observations in the local universe have uncovered a population of early-type galaxies with UV flux consistent with low-level recent or ongoing star formation. Understanding the origin of such star formation remains an open issue. We present resolved UV-optical photometry of a sample of 19 Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) early-type galaxies at $z \sim 0.1$ drawn from the sample originally selected by Salim & Rich to lie in the bluer part of the green valley in the UV-optical color-magnitude diagram as measured by the $\textit{Galaxy Evolution Explorer (GALEX)}$. Utilizing high-resolution $\textit{Hubble Space Telescope (HST)}$ far-UV imaging provides unique insight into the distribution of UV light in these galaxies, which we call "extended star-forming early-type galaxies" (ESF-ETGs) because of extended UV emission that is indicative of recent star formation. The UV-optical color profiles of all ESF-ETGs show red centers and blue outer parts. Their outer colors require the existence of a significant underlying population of older stars in the UV-bright regions. An analysis of stacked SDSS spectra reveals weak LINER-like emission in their centers. Using a cross-matched SDSS DR7/$GALEX$ GR6 catalog, we search for other green valley galaxies with similar properties to these ESF-ETGs and estimate that $\approx 13%$ of dust-corrected green valley galaxies of similar stellar mass and UV-optical color are likely ESF-candidates, i.e., ESF-ETGs are not rare. Our results are consistent with star formation that is gradually declining in existing disks, i.e., the ESF-ETGs are evolving onto the red sequence for the first time, or with rejuvenated star formation due to accreted gas in older disks provided that the gas does not disrupt the structure of the galaxy and the resulting star formation is not too recent and bursty. ESF-ETGs may typify an important subpopulation of galaxies that can linger in the green valley for up to several Gyrs, based on their resemblance to nearby gas-rich green valley galaxies with low-level ongoing star formation.
galaxies: elliptical and lenticular, cD, galaxies: evolution, galaxies: photometry, ultraviolet: galaxies
Fang, J. J., Faber, S. M., Salim, S., Graves, G. J., & Rich, R. M. (2012). The slow death (or rebirth?) of extended star formation in $z \sim 0.1$ green valley early-type galaxies. Astrophysical Journal, 761(1), 23.
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© 2012 The American Astronomical Society