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Durham University

Department of Physics

Staff profile

Publication details for Prof Richard Bower

McGee, S.L., Bower, R.G. & Balogh, M.L. (2014). Overconsumption, outflows and the quenching of satellite galaxies. Monthly Notices of Royal Astronomical Society Letters 442(1): L105-L109.

Author(s) from Durham


The baryon cycle of galaxies is a dynamic process involving the intake, consumption and ejection of vast quantities of gas. In contrast, the conventional picture of satellite galaxies has them methodically turning a large gas reservoir into stars until this reservoir is forcibly removed due to external ram pressure. This picture needs revision. Our modern understanding of the baryon cycle suggests that in some regimes the simple interruption of the fresh gas supply may quench satellite galaxies long before stripping events occur, a process we call overconsumption. We compile measurements from the literature of observed satellite quenching times at a range of redshifts to determine if satellites are principally quenched through orbit-based gas stripping events – either direct stripping of the disc (ram pressure stripping) or the extended gas halo (strangulation) – or from internally driven star formation outflows via overconsumption. These time-scales show significant deviations from the evolution expected for gas stripping mechanisms and suggest that either ram pressure stripping is much more efficient at high redshift, or that secular outflows quench satellites before orbit-based stripping occurs. Given the strong redshift evolution of star formation rates, at high redshift even moderate outflow rates will lead to extremely short delay times with the expectation that high-redshift (z > 1.5) satellites will be quenched almost immediately following the cessation of cosmological inflow. Observations of high-redshift satellites give an indirect but sensitive measure of the outflow rate, with current measurements suggesting that outflows are no larger than 2.5 times the star formation rate for galaxies with a stellar mass of 1010.5 M⊙.