The MOSDEF Survey: No Significant Enhancement in Star Formation or Deficit in Metallicity in Merging Galaxy Pairs at 1.5 ≲ z ≲ 3.5

Tim J. Wilson, Alice E. Shapley, Ryan L. Sanders, Naveen A. Reddy, William R. Freeman, Mariska Kriek, Irene Shivaei, Alison L. Coil, Brian Siana, Bahram Mobasher, Sedona H. Price, Mojegan Azadi, Guillermo Barro, Laura De Groot, Tara Fetherolf, Francesca M. Fornasini, Gene C.K. Leung, Tom O. Zick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


We study the properties of 30 spectroscopically identified pairs of galaxies observed during the peak epoch of star formation in the universe. These systems are drawn from the MOSFIRE Deep Evolution Field (MOSDEF) Survey at 1.4 ≤ z ≤ 3.8, and are interpreted as early-stage galaxy mergers. Galaxy pairs in our sample are identified as two objects whose spectra were collected on the same Keck/MOSFIRE spectroscopic slit. Accordingly, all pairs in the sample have projected separations R proj ≤ 60 kpc. The velocity separation for pairs was required to be Δv ≤ 500 km s -1 , which is a standard threshold for defining interacting galaxy pairs at low redshift. Stellar mass ratios in our sample range from 1.1 to 550, with 12 ratios closer than or equal to 3:1, the common definition of a "major merger." Studies of merging pairs in the local universe indicate an enhancement in star formation activity and deficit in gas-phase oxygen abundance relative to isolated galaxies of the same mass. We compare the MOSDEF pairs sample to a control sample of isolated galaxies at the same redshift, finding no measurable SFR enhancement or metallicity deficit at fixed stellar mass for the pairs sample. The lack of significant difference between the average properties of pairs and control samples appears in contrast to results from low-redshift studies, although the small sample size and lower signal-to-noise of the high-redshift data limit definitive conclusions on redshift evolution. These results are consistent with some theoretical works, suggesting a reduced differential effect of precoalescence mergers on galaxy properties at high redshift - specifically that precoalescence mergers do not drive strong starbursts.

Original languageEnglish
Article number18
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 20 2019

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© 2019. The American Astronomical Society. All rights reserved.


  • galaxies: evolution
  • galaxies: high-redshift
  • galaxies: interactions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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