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Evolution of the cold gas properties of simulated post-starburst galaxies

Davis, Timothy A; van de Voort, Freeke; Rowlands, Kate; McAlpine, Stuart; Wild, Vivienne; Crain, Robert A

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Timothy A Davis

Freeke van de Voort

Kate Rowlands

Stuart McAlpine

Vivienne Wild

Robert A Crain


Post-starburst galaxies are typically considered to be a transition population, en route to the red sequence after a recent quenching event. Despite this, recent observations have shown that these objects typically have large reservoirs of cold molecular gas. In this paper we study the star-forming gas properties of a large sample of post-starburst galaxies selected from the cosmological, hydrodynamical EAGLE simulations. These objects resemble observed high-mass post-starburst galaxies both spectroscopically and in terms of their space density, stellar mass distribution, and sizes. We find that the vast majority of simulated post-starburst galaxies have significant gas reservoirs, with star-forming gas masses ≈109 M⊙, in good agreement with those seen in observational samples. The simulation reproduces the observed time evolution of the gas fraction of the post-starburst galaxy population, with the average galaxy losing ≈90 per cent of its star-forming interstellar medium in only ≈600 Myr. A variety of gas consumption/loss processes are responsible for this rapid evolution, including mergers and environmental effects, while active galactic nuclei play only a secondary role. The fast evolution in the gas fraction of post-starburst galaxies is accompanied by a clear decrease in the efficiency of star formation due to a decrease in the dense gas fraction. We predict that forthcoming ALMA observations of the gas reservoirs of low-redshift post-starburst galaxies will show that the molecular gas is typically compact and has disturbed kinematics, reflecting the disruptive nature of many of the evolutionary pathways that build up the post-starburst galaxy population.


Davis, T. A., van de Voort, F., Rowlands, K., McAlpine, S., Wild, V., & Crain, R. A. (2019). Evolution of the cold gas properties of simulated post-starburst galaxies. Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 484(2), 2447-2461.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jan 14, 2019
Online Publication Date Jan 21, 2019
Publication Date May 1, 2019
Deposit Date Apr 2, 2019
Publicly Available Date Apr 2, 2019
Journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Print ISSN 0035-8711
Electronic ISSN 1365-2966
Publisher Royal Astronomical Society
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 484
Issue 2
Pages 2447-2461


Published Journal Article (2.8 Mb)

Copyright Statement
© 2019 The Author(s). Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Royal Astronomical Society

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