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Durham University

Department of Physics

Staff profile

Publication details for Prof Carlos Frenk

González, J.E., Lacey, C.G., Baugh, C.M., Frenk, C.S. & Benson, A.J. (2009). Testing model predictions of the cold dark matter cosmology for the sizes, colours, morphologies and luminosities of galaxies with the SDSS. Monthly notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 397(3): 1254-1274.

Author(s) from Durham


The huge size and uniformity of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) make possible an exacting test of current models of galaxy formation. We compare the predictions of the GALFORM semi-analytical galaxy formation model for the luminosities, morphologies, colours and scalelengths of local galaxies. GALFORM models the luminosity and size of the disc and bulge components of a galaxy, and so we can compute quantities which can be compared directly with SDSS observations, such as the Petrosian magnitude and the Sérsic index. We test the predictions of two published models set in the cold dark matter cosmology: the Baugh et al. model, which assumes a top-heavy initial mass function (IMF) in starbursts and superwind feedback, and the Bower et al. model, which uses active galactic nucleus feedback and a standard IMF. The Bower et al. model better reproduces the overall shape of the luminosity function, the morphology–luminosity relation and the colour bimodality observed in the SDSS data, but gives a poor match to the size–luminosity relation. The Baugh et al. model successfully predicts the size–luminosity relation for late-type galaxies. Both models fail to reproduce the sizes of bright early-type galaxies. These problems highlight the need to understand better both the role of feedback processes in determining galaxy sizes, in particular the treatment of the angular momentum of gas reheated by supernovae, and the sizes of the stellar spheroids formed by galaxy mergers and disc instabilities.