Evidence for TP-AGB Stars in High-Redshift Galaxies, and Their Effect on Deriving Stellar Population Parameters Academic Article uri icon


  • We explore the effects of using different stellar population models on estimates of star formation histories, ages, and masses of high-redshift galaxies by fitting the SEDs with models by Maraston (hereafter M05) and by Bruzual & Charlot (hereafter BC03). We focus on the thermally pulsing asymptotic giant branch (TP-AGB) phase of stellar evolution, whose treatment is a source of major discrepancy. In this respect, BC03 models are representative of other models whose treatment of the TP-AGB phase is similar. Moreover, M05 and BC03 models adopt stellar tracks with different assumptions on convective overshooting. For our experiment we use a sample of high-z (1.4 z 2.7) galaxies, for which rest-frame UV spectroscopy and spectroscopic redshifts are available, along with Spitzer IRAC and MIPS photometry from GOODS. The mid-UV spectra of these galaxies exhibit features typical of A- or F-type stars, indicative of ages in the range 0.2-2 Gyr, when the contribution of TP-AGB stars is expected to be maximum. We find that the TP-AGB phase plays a key role in the interpretation of the Spitzer data, where the rest-frame near-IR is sampled. Generally, M05 models give better fits than BC03 models and indicate systematically lower ages and lower masses (by 60%, on average). Photometric redshifts derived using M05 models are also in better agreement with the spectroscopic ones, especially when the rest-frame near-IR fluxes from Spitzer IRAC are included in the fit. We argue that the different results are primarily a consequence of the different treatment of the TP-AGB phase, although other differences in the input stellar evolution also contribute. This work provides a first direct evidence for a strong contribution by TP-AGB stars to the SED of galaxies in the high-redshift universe (z 2). 2006. The American Astronomical Society. All rights reserved.

published proceedings

  • The Astrophysical Journal

author list (cited authors)

  • Maraston, C., Daddi, E., Renzini, A., Cimatti, A., Dickinson, M., Papovich, C., Pasquali, A., & Pirzkal, N.

citation count

  • 312

complete list of authors

  • Maraston, C||Daddi, E||Renzini, A||Cimatti, A||Dickinson, M||Papovich, C||Pasquali, A||Pirzkal, N

publication date

  • November 2006