The structural and dynamical properties of compact elliptical galaxies Academic Article uri icon


  • © 2017 The Authors. Dedicated photometric and spectroscopic surveys have provided unambiguous evidence for a strong stellar mass-size evolution of galaxies within the last 10 Gyr. The likely progenitors of today'smostmassive galaxies are remarkably small, discy, passive and have already assembled much of their stellar mass at redshift z = 2. An in-depth analysis of these objects, however, is currently not feasible due to the lack of high-quality, spatially resolved photometric and spectroscopic data. In this paper, we present a sample of nearby compact elliptical galaxies (CEGs), which bear resemblance to the massive and quiescent galaxy population at earlier times. Hubble Space Telescope (HST) and wide-field integral field unit (IFU) data have been obtained, and are used to constrain orbit-based dynamical models and stellar population synthesis (SPS) fits, to unravel their structural and dynamical properties. We first show that our galaxies are outliers in the present-day stellar mass-size relation. They are, however, consistent with the mass-size relation of compact, massive and quiescent galaxies at redshift z = 2. The compact sizes of our nearby galaxies imply high central stellar mass surface densities, which are also in agreement with the massive galaxy population at higher redshift, hinting at strong dissipational processes during their formation. Corroborating evidence for a largely passive evolution within the last 10 Gyr is provided by their orbital distribution as well as their stellar populations, which are difficult to reconcile with a very active (major) merging history. This all supports that we can use nearby CEGs as local analogues of the high-redshift, massive and quiescent galaxy population, thus providing additional constraints for models of galaxy formation and evolution.

altmetric score

  • 10.58

author list (cited authors)

  • Yıldırım, A., van den Bosch, R., van de Ven, G., Martín-Navarro, I., Walsh, J. L., Husemann, B., Gültekin, K., & Gebhardt, K.

citation count

  • 27

publication date

  • July 2017