THE ORIGIN OF THE 24 μm EXCESS IN RED GALAXIES Academic Article uri icon


  • Observations with the Spitzer Space Telescope have revealed a population of red sequence galaxies with a significant excess in their 24 μm emission compared to what is expected from an old stellar population. We identify ∼900 red galaxies with 0.15 ≤ z ≤ 0.3 from the AGN and Galaxy Evolution Survey (AGES) selected from the NOAO Deep Wide-Field Survey Boötes field. Using Spitzer MIPS, we classify 89 (∼10%) with 24 μm infrared excess (f 24 ≥ 0.3 mJy). We determine the prevalence of active galactic nucleus (AGN) and star-formation activity in all the AGES galaxies using optical line diagnostics and mid-IR color-color criteria. Using the IRAC color-color diagram from the Spitzer Shallow Survey, we find that 64% of the 24 μm excess red galaxies are likely to have strong polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) emission features in the 8 μm IRAC band. This fraction is significantly larger than the 5% of red galaxies with f 24< 0.3 mJy that are estimated to have strong PAH emission, suggesting that the infrared emission is largely due to star-formation processes. Only 15% of the 24 μm excess red galaxies have optical line diagnostics characteristic of star formation (64% are classified as AGN and 21% are unclassifiable). The difference between the optical and infrared results suggests that both AGN and star-formation activity are occurring simultaneously in many of the 24 μm excess red galaxies. These results should serve as a warning to studies that exclusively use optical line diagnostics to determine the dominant emission mechanism in the infrared and other bands. We find that ∼40% of the 24 μm excess red galaxies are edge-on spiral galaxies with high optical extinctions. The remaining sources are likely to be red galaxies whose 24 μm emission comes from a combination of obscured AGN and star-formation activity. © 2009. The American Astronomical Society. All rights reserved..

author list (cited authors)

  • Brand, K., Moustakas, J., Armus, L., Assef, R. J., Brown, M., Cool, R. R., ... Soifer, B. T.

citation count

  • 19

publication date

  • March 2009