The SAMI Galaxy Survey: satellite galaxies undergo little structural change during their quenching phase

At fixed stellar mass, satellite galaxies show higher passive fractions than centrals, suggesting that environment is directly quenching their star formation. Here, we investigate whether satellite quenching is accompanied by changes in stellar spin (quantified by the ratio of the rotational to dispersion velocity V/σ) for a sample of massive (M* > 1010 M☉) satellite galaxies extracted from the Sydney-AAO Multi-object Integral field spectrograph (SAMI) Galaxy Survey. These systems are carefully matched to a control sample of main sequence, high V/σ central galaxies. As expected, at fixed stellar mass and ellipticity, satellites have lower star formation rate (SFR) and spin than the control centrals. However, most of the difference is in SFR, whereas the spin decreases significantly only for satellites that have already reached the red sequence. We perform a similar analysis for galaxies in the Evolution and Assembly of GaLaxies and their Environments (EAGLE) hydrodynamical simulation and recover differences in both SFR and spin similar to those observed in SAMI. However, when EAGLE satellites are matched to their true central progenitors, the change in spin is further reduced and galaxies mainly show a decrease in SFR during their satellite phase. The difference in spin observed between satellites and centrals at z ∼ 0 is primarily due to the fact that satellites do not grow their angular momentum as fast as centrals after accreting into bigger haloes, not to a reduction of V/σ due to environmental effects. Our findings highlight the effect of progenitor bias in our understanding of galaxy transformation and they suggest that satellites undergo little structural change before and during their quenching phase.

Publication Date: 
May 2019