Probing the Environmental Dependence of Star Formation in Satellite Galaxies using Orbital Kinematics
Oman, Kyle Andrew
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(Abridged) Physical processes regulating star formation in satellite galaxies represent an area of ongoing research, but the projected nature of observed coordinates makes separating different populations of satellites (with different processes at work) difficult. The present-day phase space coordinates of a satellite galaxy carry information about its orbital history, which can then be compared to its star formation history (SFH). This is expected to reveal both a trigger time and timescale for environmental quenching. Finally, this can be related back to the physical process(es) regulating star formation in high density environments. We use merger trees from the MultiDark Run 1 N-body simulation to compile a catalogue of satellite orbits in cluster environments. We parameterize the orbital history by the time since crossing within 2.5 virial radii of the cluster centre and use our catalogue to estimate the probability density over a range of this parameter given a set of projected phase space coordinates. We show that different populations of satellite haloes occupy (semi-)distinct regions of (projected) phase space. We generalize this result by producing a probability distribution function (PDF) of possible infall times at every point in projected phase space. We apply our method to determining the infall time PDFs of a large sample of observed cluster satellite candidates from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. We use galaxy colour as a proxy for SFH and model the distribution of satellite galaxy colours as two gaussian populations. We derive a Markov chain Monte-Carlo method to obtain the colour distribution as a function of the time since infall into the cluster environment. Our implementation of this method is still being tuned, but we use a second simpler (but much cruder) method to obtain an estimate of the evolution of the colour distribution. Our results are suggestive of a quenching process that begins within perhaps ±1 Gyr of virial radius crossing and which slows after pericentric passage. We stress that results obtained with this second method come with important caveats.