The VIMOS VLT deep survey*: The build-up of the colour-density relation

O. Cucciati, A. Iovino, C. Marinoni, O. Ilbert, S. Bardelli, P. Franzetti, O. Le Fèvre, A. Pollo, G. Zamorani, A. Cappi, L. Guzzo, H. J. McCracken, B. Meneux, R. Scaramella, M. Scodeggio, L. Tresse, E. Zucca, D. Bottini, B. Garilli, V. Le BrunD. Maccagni, J. P. Picat, G. Vettolani, A. Zanichelli, C. Adami, M. Arnaboldi, S. Arnouts, M. Bolzonella, S. Charlot, P. Ciliegi, T. Contini, S. Foucaud, I. Gavignaud, B. Marano, A. Mazure, R. Merighi, S. Paltani, R. Pellò, L. Pozzetti, M. Radovich, M. Bondi, A. Bongiorno, G. Busarello, S. De La Torre, L. Gregorini, F. Lamareille, G. Mathez, Y. Mellier, P. Merluzzi, V. Ripepi, D. Rizzo, S. Temporin, D. Vergani

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

148 Citations (Scopus)


We investigate the redshift and luminosity evolution of the galaxy colour-density relation using the data from the First Epoch VIMOS-VLT Deep Survey (VVDS). The size (6582 galaxies with good quality redshifts), depth (IAB ≤ 24) and redshift sampling rate (20% on the mean) of the survey enable us to reconstruct the 3D galaxy environment on relatively local scales (R = 5 h-1 Mpc) up to redshift z ∼ 1.5. Particular attention has been devoted to calibrate a density reconstruction scheme, which factors out survey selection effects and reproduces in an unbiased way the underlying "real" galaxy environment. We find that the colour-density relation shows a dramatic change as a function of cosmic time. While at lower redshift we confirm the existence of a steep colour-density relation, with the fraction of the reddest(/bluest) galaxies of the same luminosity increasing(/decreasing) as a function of density, this trend progressively disappears in the highest redshift bins investigated. Our results suggest the existence of an epoch (more remote for brighter galaxies) characterized by the absence of the colour-density relation on the R = 5 h-1 Mpc scales investigated. The rest frame u* - g′ colour-magnitude diagram shows a bimodal pattern in both low and high density environments up to redshift z ∼ 1.5. We find that the bimodal distribution is not universal but strongly depends upon environment: at lower redshifts the colour-magnitude diagrams in low and high density regions are significantly different while the progressive weakening of the colour-density relation causes the two bimodal distributions to nearly mirror each other in the highest redshift bin investigated. Both the colour-density and the colour-magnitude-density relations, on the R = 5 h -1 Mpc scales, appear to be a transient, cumulative product of genetic and environmental factors that have been operating over at least a period of 9 Gyr. These findings support an evolutionary scenario in which star formation/gas depletion processes are accelerated in more luminous objects and in high density environments: star formation activity is progressively shifting with cosmic time towards lower luminosity galaxies (downsizing), and out of high density environments.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)39-52
Number of pages14
JournalAstronomy and Astrophysics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2006


  • Cosmology: observations
  • Galaxies: distances and redshifts
  • Galaxies: evolution
  • Galaxies: fundamental parameters
  • Galaxies: statistics
  • Large scale structure of Universe

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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