The MASSIVE Survey. XVI. the Stellar Initial Mass Function in the Center of MASSIVE Early-type Galaxies

Meng Gu, Jenny E. Greene, Andrew B. Newman, Christina Kreisch, Matthew E. Quenneville, Chung Pei Ma, John P. Blakeslee

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12 Scopus citations


The stellar initial mass function (IMF) is a fundamental property in the measurement of stellar masses and galaxy star formation histories. In this work, we focus on the most massive galaxies in the nearby universe log(M∗/M⊙)>11.2 . We obtain high-quality Magellan/LDSS-3 long-slit spectroscopy with a wide wavelength coverage of 0.4-1.01 μm for 41 early-type galaxies (ETGs) in the MASSIVE survey and derive high signal-to-noise spectra within an aperture of R e/8. Using detailed stellar synthesis models, we constrain the elemental abundances and stellar IMF of each galaxy through full spectral modeling. All the ETGs in our sample have an IMF that is steeper than a Milky Way (Kroupa) IMF. The best-fit IMF mismatch parameter, α IMF = (M/L)/(M/L)MW, ranges from 1.1 to 3.1, with an average of 〈α IMF〉 = 1.84, suggesting that on average, the IMF is more bottom heavy than Salpeter. Comparing the estimated stellar masses with the dynamical masses, we find that most galaxies have stellar masses that are smaller than their dynamical masses within the 1σ uncertainty. We complement our sample with lower-mass galaxies from the literature and confirm that log(αIMF) is positively correlated with log(σ), log(M∗), and log(Mdyn) . From the combined sample, we show that the IMF in the centers of more massive ETGs is more bottom heavy. In addition, we find that log(αIMF) is positively correlated with both [Mg/Fe] and the estimated total metallicity [Z/H]. We find suggestive evidence that the effective stellar surface density ςKroupa might be responsible for the variation of α IMF. We conclude that σ, [Mg/Fe], and [Z/H] are the primary drivers of the global stellar IMF variation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number103
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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