Clumpy galaxies in candels. I. the definition of UV clumps and the fraction of clumpy galaxies at 0.5 < z < 3

Yicheng Guo, Henry C. Ferguson, Eric F. Bell, David C. Koo, Christopher J. Conselice, Mauro Giavalisco, Susan Kassin, Yu Lu, Ray Lucas, Nir Mandelker, Daniel M. McIntosh, Joel R. Primack, Swara Ravindranath, Guillermo Barro, Daniel Ceverino, Avishai Dekel, Sandra M. Faber, Jerome J. Fang, Anton M. Koekemoer, Kai NoeskeMarc Rafelski, Amber Straughn

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182 Scopus citations


Although giant clumps of stars are thought to be crucial to galaxy formation and evolution, the most basic demographics of clumps are still uncertain, mainly because the definition of clumps has not been thoroughly discussed. In this paper, we carry out a study of the basic demographics of clumps in star-forming galaxies at 0.5 < z < 3, using our proposed physical definition that UV-bright clumps are discrete star-forming regions that individually contribute more than 8% of the rest-frame UV light of their galaxies. Clumps defined this way are significantly brighter than the H II regions of nearby large spiral galaxies, either individually or blended, when physical spatial resolution and cosmological dimming are considered. Under this definition, we measure the fraction of star-forming galaxies that have at least one off-center clump (f clumpy) and the contributions of clumps to the rest-frame UV light and star formation rate (SFR) of star-forming galaxies in the CANDELS/GOODS-S and UDS fields, where our mass-complete sample consists of 3239 galaxies with axial ratio q > 0.5. The redshift evolution of f clumpy changes with the stellar mass (M ∗) of the galaxies. Low-mass (log (M ∗/M ) < 9.8) galaxies keep an almost constant f clumpy of ∼60% from z ∼ 3 to z ∼ 0.5. Intermediate-mass and massive galaxies drop their f clumpy from 55% at z ∼ 3 to 40% and 15%, respectively, at z ∼ 0.5. We find that (1) the trend of disk stabilization predicted by violent disk instability matches the f clumpy trend of massive galaxies; (2) minor mergers are a viable explanation of the f clumpy trend of intermediate-mass galaxies at z < 1.5, given a realistic observability timescale; and (3) major mergers are unlikely responsible for the f clumpy trend in all masses at z < 1.5. The clump contribution to the rest-frame UV light of star-forming galaxies shows a broad peak around galaxies with log (M ∗/M ) ∼ 10.5 at all redshifts. The clump contribution in the intermediate-mass and massive galaxies is possibly linked to the molecular gas fraction of the galaxies. The clump contribution to the SFR of star-forming galaxies, generally around 4%-10%, also shows dependence on the galaxy M ∗, but for a given galaxy M ∗, its dependence on the redshift is mild.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number39
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - 10 Feb 2015

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© 2015. The American Astronomical Society. All rights reserved..


  • galaxies: evolution
  • galaxies: formation
  • galaxies: irregular
  • galaxies: star formation
  • galaxies: starburst
  • galaxies: structure


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