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The faint stellar halos of massive red galaxies from stacks of more than 42000 SDSS LRG images

By Tomer Tal and Pieter van Dokkum


We study the properties of massive galaxies at an average redshift of z~0.34 through stacking more than 42000 images of Luminous Red Galaxies from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. This is the largest dataset ever used for such an analysis and it allows us to explore the outskirts of massive red galaxies at unprecedented physical scales. Our image stacks extend farther than 400 kpc, where the r-band profile surface brightness reaches 30 mag arcsec-2. This analysis confirms that the stellar bodies of luminous red galaxies follow a simple Sersic profile out to 100 kpc. At larger radii the profiles deviate from the best-fit Sersic models and exhibit extra light in the g, r, i and z-band stacks. This excess light can probably be attributed to unresolved intragroup or intracluster light or a change in the light profile itself. We further show that standard analyses of SDSS-depth images typically miss 20% of the total stellar light and underestimate the size of LRGs by 10% compared to our best fit r-band Sersic model of n=5.5 and r_e=13.1 kpc. If the excess light at r>100 kpc is considered to be part of the galaxy, the best fit r-band Sersic parameters are n=5.8 and r_e=13.6 kpc. In addition we study the radially dependent stack ellipticity and find an increase with radius from e=0.25 at r=10 kpc to e=0.3 at r=100 kpc. This provides support that the stellar light that we trace out to at least 100 kpc is physically associated with the galaxies themselves and may confirm that the halos of individual LRGs have higher ellipticities than their central parts. Lastly we show that the broadband color gradients of the stacked images are flat beyond roughly 40 kpc, suggesting that the stellar populations do not vary significantly with radius in the outer parts of massive ellipticals.Comment: Accepted for publication in Ap

Topics: Astrophysics - Cosmology and Nongalactic Astrophysics, Astrophysics - Astrophysics of Galaxies
Year: 2011
DOI identifier: 10.1088/0004-637X/731/2/89
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