Astronomy and Astrophysics, volume 370, 384-397 (2001/5-1)
A wide field survey at the Northern Ecliptic Pole. II. Number counts and galaxy colours in Bj, R, and K.
KUEMMEL M.W. and WAGNER S.J.
Abstract (from CDS):
We present a medium deep survey carried out in the three filters Bj, R and K. The survey covers homogeneously the central square degree around the Northern Ecliptic Pole (NEP) down to a completeness limit (95%) of 24.25, 23.0 and 17.5 mag in Bj, R and K, respectively. While the near infrared data have been presented in the first paper of this series, here we concentrate on the optical data and the results based on the combined BjRK-data. The unique combination of area and depth in our survey allows to perform a variety of investigations based on homogeneous material covering more than ten magnitudes in apparent brightness. We analyze the number counts for point-like and extended sources in Bj and R to determine the slopes in dlogN/dm and to test for possible breaks therein. While we can confirm the slopes found in previous works with a higher statistical significance, the largest uncertainty remaining for the amplitudes is galactic extinction. We determine the colour distributions of galaxies in Bj-R and R-K down to Bj=24.0 and K=18.0mag, respectively. The distributions in both colours are modeled using galaxy spectral evolution synthesis. We demonstrate that the standard models of galaxy evolution are unable to reproduce the steady reddening trend in R-K despite flawless fits to the colour distributions in the optical (Bj-R). The BjRK data collected over a large area provides the opportunity to select rare objects like candidates for high-redshift galaxies and extremely red objects (EROs, R-K>5.0) and to determine their surface density. Our EROs are selected at an intermediate magnitude range and contain contribution from both galactic as well as extragalactic sources. At K<16.5mag, where a morphological classification is possible, the stellar component dominates the sample.