Correcting for the overabundance of low-mass quiescent galaxies in semi-analytic models

Jimi E Harrold, Omar Almaini, Frazer R Pearce, Robert M Yates

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We compare the l-galaxies semi-analytic model to deep observational data from the UKIDSS Ultra Deep Survey (UDS) across the redshift range 0.5 \lt; z \lt; 3. We find that the overabundance of low-mass, passive galaxies at high redshifts in the model can be attributed solely to the properties of ‘orphan’ galaxies, i.e. satellite galaxies where the simulation has lost track of the host dark matter sub-halo. We implement a simple model that boosts the star formation rates in orphan galaxies by matching them to non-orphaned satellite galaxies at a similar evolutionary stage. This straightforward change largely addresses the discrepancy in the low-mass passive fraction across all redshifts. We find that the orphan problem is somewhat alleviated by higher resolution simulations, but the preservation of a larger gas reservoir in orphans is still required to produce a better fit to the observed space density of low-mass passive galaxies. Our findings are also robust to the precise definition of the passive galaxy population. In general, considering the vastly different prescriptions used for orphans in semi-analytic models, we recommend that they are analysed separately from the resolved satellite galaxy population, particularly with JWST observations reigniting interest in the low-mass regime in which they dominate.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberslae043
Pages (from-to)L61-L66
Number of pages6
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society: Letters
Issue number1
Early online date17 May 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 17 May 2024


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