Luminosity dependence in the Fundamental Plane projections of elliptical galaxies

Louis Benoit Desroches, Eliot Quataert, Chung Pei Ma, Andrew A. West

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We analyse the Fundamental Plane projections of elliptical galaxies as a function of luminosity, using a sample of ≈80 000 galaxies drawn from Data Release 4 (DR4) of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS). We separate brightest cluster galaxies (BCGs) from our main sample and reanalyse their photometry due to a problem with the default pipeline sky subtraction for BCGs. The observables we consider are effective radius (Re), velocity dispersion (σ), dynamical mass, effective density and effective surface brightness. With the exception of the L -Mdyn correlation, we find evidence of variations in the slope (i.e. the power-law index) of the Fundamental Plane projections with luminosity for our normal elliptical galaxy population. In particular, the radius-luminosity and Faber-Jackson relations are steeper at high luminosity relative to low luminosity, and the more luminous ellipticals become progressively less dense and have lower surface brightnesses than lower luminosity ellipticals. These variations can be understood as arising from differing formation histories, with more luminous galaxies having less dissipation. Data from the literature and our reanalysis of BCGs show that BCGs have radius-luminosity and Faber-Jackson relations steeper than the brightest non-BCG ellipticals in our sample, consistent with significant growth of BCGs via dissipationless mergers. The variations in slope we find in the Faber-Jackson relation of non-BCGs are qualitatively similar to that reported in the black hole mass-velocity dispersion correlation. This similarity is consistent with a roughly constant value of over a wide range of early-type galaxies, where is the stellar mass.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)402-414
Number of pages13
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 2007
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


  • Galaxies: elliptical and lenticular, cD
  • Galaxies: evolution
  • Galaxies: formation
  • Galaxies: fundamental parameters
  • Galaxies: statistics


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