Galaxy quenching at the high redshift frontier: A fundamental test of cosmological models in the early universe with JWST-CEERS

Asa F. L. Bluck*, Christopher J. Conselice, Katherine Ormerod, Joanna M. Piotrowska, Nathan Adams, Duncan Austin, Joseph Caruana, K. J. Duncan, Leonardo Ferreira, Paul Goubert, Thomas Harvey, James Trussler, Roberto Maiolino

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

We present an analysis of the quenching of star formation in massive galaxies (M∗>109.5M⊙) within the first 0.5 - 3 Gyr of the Universe's history utilizing JWST-CEERS data. We utilize a combination of advanced statistical methods to accurately constrain the intrinsic dependence of quenching in a multi-dimensional and inter-correlated parameter space. Specifically, we apply Random Forest (RF) classification, area statistics, and a partial correlation analysis to the JWST-CEERS data. First, we identify the key testable predictions from two state-of-the-art cosmological simulations (IllustrisTNG & EAGLE). Both simulations predict that quenching should be regulated by supermassive black hole mass in the early Universe. Furthermore, both simulations identify the stellar potential (ϕ∗) as the optimal proxy for black hole mass in photometric data. In photometric observations, where we have no direct constraints on black hole masses, we find that the stellar potential is the most predictive parameter of massive galaxy quenching at all epochs from z=0−8, exactly as predicted by simulations for this sample. The stellar potential outperforms stellar mass, galaxy size, galaxy density, and Sérsic index as a predictor of quiescence at all epochs probed in JWST-CEERS. Collectively, these results strongly imply a stable quenching mechanism operating throughout cosmic history, which is closely connected to the central gravitational potential in galaxies. This connection is explained in cosmological models via massive black holes forming and growing in deep potential wells, and subsequently quenching galaxies through a mix of ejective and preventative active galactic nucleus (AGN) feedback.
Original languageEnglish
Article number163
Pages (from-to)1-23
Number of pages23
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Volume961
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 23 Jan 2024

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • astro-ph.GA
  • astro-ph.CO

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