The Millennium Galaxy Catalogue: morphological classification and bimodality in the colour-concentration plane

S. P. Driver*, P. D. Allen, Allster W. Graham, E. Cameron, J. Liske, S. C. Ellis, N. J.G. Cross, R. De Propris, S. Phillipps, W. J. Couch

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

182 Citations (Scopus)


Using 10095 galaxies (B < 20 mag) from the Millennium Galaxy Catalogue, we derive B-band luminosity distributions and selected bivariate brightness distributions for the galaxy population subdivided by eyeball morphology; Sérsic index (n); two-degree Field Galaxy Red-shift Survey (2dFGRS) η parameter; rest-(u - r) colour (global and core); MGC continuum shape; half-light radius; (extrapolated) central surface brightness; and inferred stellar mass-to-light ratio. All subdivisions extract highly correlated subsets of the galaxy population which consistently point towards two overlapping distributions: an old, red, inert, predominantly luminous, high central-surface brightness subset; and a young, blue, star forming, intermediate surface brightness subset. A clear bimodality in the observed distribution is seen in both the rest-(u - r) colour and log (n) distributions. Whilst the former bimodality was well established from Sloan Digital Sky Survey data, we show here that the rest-(u - r) colour bimodality becomes more pronounced when using the core colour as opposed to global colour. The two populations are extremely well separated in the colour-log(n) plane. Using our sample of 3314 (B < 19 mag) eyeball classified galaxies, we show that the bulge-dominated, early-type galaxies populate one peak and the bulge-less, late-type galaxies occupy the second. The early- and mid-type spirals sprawl across and between the peaks. This constitutes extremely strong evidence that the fundamental way to divide the luminous galaxy population (M BMGC-5 log h < -16 mag, i.e. dwarfs not included) is into bulges (old red, inert, high concentration) and discs (young, blue, star forming, low concentration) and that the galaxy bimodality reflects the two-component nature of galaxies and not two distinct galaxy classes. We argue that these two components require two independent formation mechanisms/processes and advocate early bulge formation through initial collapse and ongoing disc formation through splashback, infall and merging/accretion. We calculate the B-band luminosity densities and stellar mass densities within each subdivision and estimate that the z ≈ 0 stellar mass content in spheroids, bulges and discs is 35 ± 2,18 ± 7 and 47 ± 7 per cent, respectively.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)414-434
Number of pages21
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Galaxies: fundamental parameters
  • Galaxies: luminosity function, mass function
  • Galaxies: statistics
  • Surveys

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