COSMOS2020: Exploring the dawn of quenching for massive galaxies at 3 < z < 5 with a new colour selection method

Katriona M. L. Gould*, Gabriel Brammer, Francesco Valentino, Katherine E. Whitaker, John R. Weaver, Claudia del P. Lagos, Francesca Rizzo, Maximilien Franco, Bau-Ching Hseih, Olivier Ilbert, Shuowen Jin, Georgios Magdis, Henry J. McCracken, Bahram Mobasher, Marko Shuntov, Charles L. Steinhardt, Victoria Strait, Sune Toft

*Corresponding author for this work

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We select and characterize a sample of massive (log(M*/M) > 10.6) quiescent galaxies (QGs) at 3 < z < 5 in the latest Cosmological Evolution Survey catalog (COSMOS2020). QGs are selected using a new rest-frame color-selection method, based on their probability of belonging to the quiescent group defined by a Gaussian mixture model (GMM) trained on rest-frame colors (NUVU, UV, VJ) of similarly massive galaxies at 2 < z < 3. We calculate the quiescent probability threshold above which a galaxy is classified as quiescent using simulated galaxies from the shark semi-analytical model. We find that, at z ≥ 3 in shark, the GMM/NUVUVJ method outperforms classical rest-frame UVJ selection and is a viable alternative. We select galaxies as quiescent based on their probability in COSMOS2020 at 3 < z < 5, and compare the selected sample to both UVJ- and NUVrJ-selected samples. We find that, although the new selection matches UVJ and NUVrJ in number, the overlap between color selections is only ∼50%–80%, implying that rest-frame color commonly used at lower-redshift selections cannot be equivalently used at z > 3. We compute median rest-frame spectral energy distributions for our sample and find the median QG at 3 < z < 5 has a strong Balmer/4000 Å break, and residual NUV flux indicating recent quenching. We find the number densities of the entire quiescent population (including post-starbursts) more than doubles from 3.5 ± 2.2 × 10−6 Mpc−3 at 4 < z < 5 to 1.4 ± 0.4 × 10−5 Mpc−3 at 3 < z < 4, confirming that the onset of massive galaxy quenching occurs as early as 3 < z < 5.
Original languageEnglish
Article number248
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Number of pages18
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • Quenched galaxies
  • High-redshift galaxies
  • Galaxy classification systems
  • Gaussian mixture model


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