A low [CII]/[NII] ratio in the center of a massive galaxy at z = 3.7: evidence for a transition to quiescence at high redshift

C. Schreiber*, K. Glazebrook, C. Papovich, T. DÍaz-Santos, A. Verma, D. Elbaz, G. G. Kacprzak, T. Nanayakkara, P. Oesch, M. Pannella, L. Spitler, C. Straatman, K. V. Tran, Tao Want

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
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Understanding the process of quenching is one of the major open questions in galaxy evolution and crucial insights may be obtained by studying quenched galaxies at high redshifts at epochs when the Universe and the galaxies were younger and simpler to model. However, establishing the degree of quiescence in high-redshift galaxies is a challenging task. One notable example is Hyde, a recently discovered galaxy at zspec = 3.709. Equally as compact (r1/2 ∼ 0.5 kpc) and massive (M ∼ 1011 M) as its quenched neighbor Jekyll, it is also extremely obscured yet only moderately luminous in the sub-millimeter. Panchromatic modeling has suggested it could be the first galaxy found in transition to quenching at z > 3, however, the data are also consistent with a broad range of star-formation activity, from fully quenched to moderate star-formation rates (SFR) in the lower scatter of the galaxy main-sequence. Here, we describe Atacama Large Millimeter Array observations of the [C II] 157 μm and [N II] 205 μm far-infrared emission lines. The [C II] emission within the half-light radius is dominated by ionized gas, while the outskirts are dominated by photo-dissociation regions or neutral gas. This suggests that the ionization in the center is not primarily powered by ongoing star formation, and is instead coming from remnant stellar populations formed in an older burst or from a moderate active galactic nucleus. Accounting for this information in the multi-wavelength modeling provides a tighter constraint on the star formation rate of SFR = 50-18+24 M yr-1 yr-1. This rules out fully quenched solutions and favors SFRs more than factor of two lower than expected for a main-sequence galaxy, confirming the nature of Hyde as a transition galaxy. These results suggest that quenching happens from inside-out and starts before the galaxy expels or consumes all its gas reservoirs. Similar observations of a sample of massive and obscured galaxies would determine whether this is an isolated case or the norm for quenching at high redshift.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberA68
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
JournalAstronomy and Astrophysics
Publication statusPublished - 9 Feb 2021

Bibliographical note

Reproduced with permission from Astronomy & Astrophysics, Copyright ESO 2021. First published in Astronomy and Astrophysics, 646, A68, 2021, published by EDP Sciences. The original publication is available at https://doi.org/10.1051/0004-6361/201936460. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • Galaxies: evolution
  • Galaxies: high-redshift
  • Galaxies: star formation
  • Submillimeter: galaxies


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