Mon. Not. R. Astron. Soc., 380, 571-584 (2007/September-2)
Structure through colour: a pixel approach towards understanding galaxies.
LANYON-FOSTER M.M., CONSELICE C.J. and MERRIFIELD M.R.
Abstract (from CDS):
We present a study of pixel colour-magnitude diagrams (pCMDs) for a sample of 69 nearby galaxies chosen to span a wide range of Hubble types. Our goal is to determine how useful a pixel approach is for studying galaxies according to their stellar light distributions and content. The galaxy images were analysed on a pixel-by-pixel basis to reveal the structure of the individual pCMDs. We find that the average surface brightness (or projected mass density) in each pixel varies according to galaxy type. Early-type galaxies exhibit a clear `prime sequence' and some pCMDs of face-on spirals reveal `inverse-L' structures. We find that the colour dispersion at a given magnitude is found to be approximately constant in early-type galaxies but this quantity varies in the mid and late types. We investigate individual galaxies and find that the pCMDs can be used to pick out morphological features. We discuss the discovery of `Red Hooks' in the pCMDs of six early-type galaxies and two spirals and postulate their origins. We develop quantitative methods to characterize the pCMDs, including measures of the blue-to-red light ratio and colour distributions of each galaxy and we organize these by morphological type. We compare the colours of the pixels in each galaxy with the stellar population models of Bruzual & Charlot to calculate star formation histories for each galaxy type and compare these to the stellar mass within each pixel. Maps of pixel stellar mass and mass-to-light ratio are compared to galaxy images. We apply the pCMD technique to three galaxies in the Hubble Ultra Deep Field to test the usefulness of the analysis at high redshift. We propose that these results can be used as part of a new system of automated classification of galaxies that can be applied at high redshift.