Volume 577, May 2015
|Number of page(s)||13|
|Section||Cosmology (including clusters of galaxies)|
|Published online||13 May 2015|
On the cosmic evolution of the specific star formation rate
1 Institut d’Astrophysique de Paris, UMR 7095, CNRS, Université Pierre et Marie Curie, 98bis boulevard Arago, 75014 Paris, France
2 GEPI, Observatoire de Paris, UMR 8111, CNRS, Université Paris Diderot, 5 place Jules Janssen, 92190 Meudon, France
3 Departamento de Astronomia, IAG/USP, rua do Matão 1226, 05508-090, Cidade Universitária, 1280 São Paulo, SP, Brazil
Received: 9 September 2013
Accepted: 3 February 2015
The apparent correlation between the specific star formation rate (sSFR) and total stellar mass (M⋆) of galaxies is a fundamental relationship indicating how they formed their stellar populations. To attempt to understand this relation, we hypothesize that the relation and its evolution is regulated by the increase in the stellar and gas mass surface density in galaxies with redshift, which is itself governed by the angular momentum of the accreted gas, the amount of available gas, and by self-regulation of star formation. With our model, we can reproduce the specific SFR − M⋆ relations at z ~ 1–2 by assuming gas fractions and gas mass surface densities similar to those observed for z = 1–2 galaxies. We further argue that it is the increasing angular momentum with cosmic time that causes a decrease in the surface density of accreted gas. The gas mass surface densities in galaxies are controlled by the centrifugal support (i.e., angular momentum), and the sSFR is predicted to increase as, sSFR(z) = (1 + z)3/tH0, as observed (where tH0 is the Hubble time and no free parameters are necessary). In addition, the simple evolution for the star-formation intensity we propose is in agreement with observations of Milky Way-like galaxies selected through abundance matching. At z ≳ 2, we argue that star formation is self-regulated by high pressures generated by the intense star formation itself. The star formation intensity must be high enough to either balance the hydrostatic pressure (a rather extreme assumption) or to generate high turbulent pressure in the molecular medium which maintains galaxies near the line of instability (i.e. Toomre Q ~ 1). We provide simple prescriptions for understanding these self-regulation mechanisms based on solid relationships verified through extensive study. In all cases, the most important factor is the increase in stellar and gas mass surface density with redshift, which allows distant galaxies to maintain high levels of sSFR. Without a strong feedback from massive stars, such galaxies would likely reach very high sSFR levels, have high star formation efficiencies, and because strong feedback drives outflows, ultimately have an excess of stellar baryons.
Key words: galaxies: high-redshift / galaxies: evolution / galaxies: kinematics and dynamics / galaxies: ISM
© ESO, 2015
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