Cosmic Vine: A z = 3.44 large-scale structure hosting massive quiescent galaxies

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We report the discovery of a large-scale structure at z = 3.44 revealed by JWST data in the Extended Groth Strip (EGS) field. This structure, called the Cosmic Vine, consists of 20 galaxies with spectroscopic redshifts at 3.43 < z < 3.45 and six galaxy overdensities (4−7σ) with consistent photometric redshifts, making up a vine-like structure extending over a ∼4 × 0.2 pMpc2 area. The two most massive galaxies (M ≈ 1010.9 M ) of the Cosmic Vine are found to be quiescent with bulge-dominated morphologies (B/T > 70%). Comparisons with simulations suggest that the Cosmic Vine would form a cluster with halo mass Mhalo > 1014M at z = 0, and the two massive galaxies are likely forming the brightest cluster galaxies (BCGs). The results unambiguously reveal that massive quiescent galaxies can form in growing large-scale structures at z > 3, thus disfavoring the environmental quenching mechanisms that require a virialized cluster core. Instead, as suggested by the interacting and bulge-dominated morphologies, the two galaxies are likely quenched by merger-triggered starburst or active galactic nucleus (AGN) feedback before falling into a cluster core. Moreover, we found that the observed specific star formation rates of massive quiescent galaxies in z > 3 dense environments are one to two orders of magnitude lower than that of the BCGs in the TNG300 simulation. This discrepancy potentially poses a challenge to the models of massive cluster galaxy formation. Future studies comparing a large sample with dedicated cluster simulations are required to solve the problem.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberL4
JournalAstronomy and Astrophysics
Publication statusPublished - 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Authors 2024.

    Research areas

  • galaxies: clusters: general, galaxies: evolution, galaxies: formation, galaxies: high-redshift, galaxies: structure

ID: 389364994