The early early type: Discovery of a passive galaxy at Zspec ∼3

R. Gobat, V. Strazzullo, E. Daddi, M. Onodera, A. Renzini, M. Béthermin, M. Dickinson, M. Carollo, A. Cimatti

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56 Scopus citations


We present the discovery of a massive, quiescent galaxy at z = 2.99. We have obtained an Hubble Space Telescope WFC3 spectrum of this object and measured its redshift from the detection of a deep 4000 Å break consistent with an old population and a high metallicity. By stellar population modeling of both its grism spectrum and broadband photometry, we derive an age of 0.7 Gyr, implying a formation redshift of z > 4, and a mass >1011 M Ȯ. Although this passive galaxy is the most distant confirmed so far, we find that it is slightly less compact than other z > 2 early types of similar mass, being overall more analogous to those z 1.6 field early-type galaxies. The discovery of this object shows that early-type galaxies are detectable to at least z = 3 and suggests that the diversity of structural properties found in z = 1.4-2 ellipticals to earlier epochs could have its origin in a variety of formation histories among their progenitors.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberL44
JournalAstrophysical Journal Letters
Issue number2
StatePublished - 10 Nov 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • galaxies: evolution
  • galaxies: formation
  • galaxies: high-redshift


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