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Centro de Astrofísica da Universidade do Porto

Early assembly of the most massive galaxies

C. A. Collins, J. P. Stott, M. Hilton, S. T. Kay, S. A. Stanford, M. Davidson, M. Hosmer, A. Liddle, E. Lloyd-Davies, R. Mann, N. Mehrtens, C. J. Miller, R. C. Nichol, A. K. Romer, M. Sahlén, P. T. P. Viana, M. West

Abstract
The current consensus is that galaxies begin as small density fluctuations in the early Universe and grow by in situ star formation and hierarchical merging. Stars begin to form relatively quickly in sub-galactic-sized building blocks called haloes which are subsequently assembled into galaxies. However, exactly when this assembly takes place is a matter of some debate. Here we report that the stellar masses of brightest cluster galaxies, which are the most luminous objects emitting stellar light, some 9 billion years ago are not significantly different from their stellar masses today. Brightest cluster galaxies are almost fully assembled 425 billion years after the Big Bang, having grown to more than 90 per cent of their final stellar mass by this time. Our data conflict with the most recent galaxy formation models based on the largest simulations of dark-matter halo development. These models predict protracted formation of brightest cluster galaxies over a Hubble time, with only 22 per cent of the stellar mass assembled at the epoch probed by our sample. Our findings suggest a new picture in which brightest cluster galaxies experience an early period of rapid growth rather than prolonged hierarchical assembly.

Nature
Volume 458, Page 603
April 2009

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Institute of Astrophysics and Space Sciences

Institute of Astrophysics and Space Sciences (IA) is a new but long anticipated research infrastructure with a national dimension. It embodies a bold but feasible vision for the development of Astronomy, Astrophysics and Space Sciences in Portugal, taking full advantage and fully realizing the potential created by the national membership of the European Space Agency (ESA) and the European Southern Observatory (ESO). IA resulted from the merging the two most prominent research units in the field in Portugal: the Centre for Astrophysics of the University of Porto (CAUP) and the Center for Astronomy and Astrophysics of the University of Lisbon (CAAUL). It currently hosts more than two-thirds of all active researchers working in Space Sciences in Portugal, and is responsible for an even greater fraction of the national productivity in international ISI journals in the area of Space Sciences. This is the scientific area with the highest relative impact factor (1.65 times above the international average) and the field with the highest average number of citations per article for Portugal.

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