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Single-colour diagnostics of the mass-to-light ratio - I. Predictions from galaxy formation models.

Wilkins, S.M. and Gonzalez-Perez, V. and Baugh, C.M. and Lacey, Cedric G. and Zuntz, J. (2013) 'Single-colour diagnostics of the mass-to-light ratio - I. Predictions from galaxy formation models.', Monthly notices of the Royal Astronomical Society., 431 (1). pp. 430-439.


Accurate galaxy stellar masses are crucial to better understand the physical mechanisms driving the galaxy formation process. We use synthetic star formation and metal enrichment histories predicted by the GALFORM galaxy formation model to investigate the precision with which various colours (ma − mb) can alone be used as diagnostics of the stellar mass-to-light ratio. As an example, we find that, at z = 0, the intrinsic (Bf435w − Vf606w) colour can be used to determine the intrinsic rest-frame V-band stellar mass-to-light ratio (log 10ΓV = log 10[(M/M⊙)/(LV/LV⊙)]) with a precision of σlgΓ ≃ 0.06 when the initial mass function and redshift are known beforehand. While the presence of dust, assuming a universal attenuation curve, can have a systematic effect on the inferred mass-to-light ratio using a single-colour relation, this is typically small as it is often possible to choose a colour for which the dust reddening vector is approximately aligned with the (ma − mb)-log 10ΓV relation. The precision with which the stellar mass-to-light ratio can be recovered using a single-colour diagnostic rivals implementations of spectral energy distribution (SED) fitting using more information but in which simple parametrizations of the star formation and metal enrichment histories are assumed. To facilitate the wide use of these relations, we provide the optimal observer frame colour to estimate the stellar mass-to-light ratio, along with the associated parameters, as a function of redshift (0 < z < 1.5) for two sets of commonly used filters.

Item Type:Article
Keywords:Galaxies: stellar content.
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Publisher statement:This article has been accepted for publication in Monthly notices of the Royal Astronomical Society © 2013 The Authors Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Royal Astronomical Society. All rights reserved.
Date accepted:No date available
Date deposited:27 June 2014
Date of first online publication:May 2013
Date first made open access:No date available

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