Faint extended elliptically shaped ultra-diffuse galaxies and slightly brighter and more compact dwarf elliptical and lenticular stellar systems are common in galaxy clusters. Their poorly constrained evolutionary paths can be studied by identifying young ultra-diffuse galaxy and dwarf elliptical analogues populated with bright, massive stars. Using data mining we identified 11 such low-mass (2 × 108 M⊙ < M★ < 2 × 109 M⊙) galaxies with large half-light radii (2.0 kpc < re < 5 kpc) and recently quenched star formation in the Coma and Abell 2147 galaxy clusters. All galaxies happen to have ram-pressure-stripped tails with signs of current or recent star formation. Deep spectroscopic observations revealed rotating stellar disks containing 70–95% dark matter by mass. A large fraction of the disk stars (10–60%) formed in intense star bursts 180–970 Myr ago, probably triggered by ram pressure. Observed global gradients of stellar age corroborate this scenario. Passive evolution in the next 10 Gyr will transform 9 of the 11 galaxies into ultra-diffuse galaxies. If we assume a constant rate of galaxy infall, 44 ± 16% of the most luminous present-day ultra-diffuse galaxies in Coma must have formed via ram-pressure stripping of disky progenitors.
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Data and code availability
Reduced flux calibrated Binospec spectra coadded within 1 re and their best-fitting NBursts+phot spectrophotometric models (Extended Data Figs. 2 and 3), the spatially resolved profiles of internal kinematics and stellar populations and corresponding axisymmetric Jeans models for every galaxy as are available through the Zenodo data repository with the following permanent identifier: https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.5031351. Fully reduced Subaru and CFHT images used for the dynamical modelling procedure are available in the corresponding open access data archives (http://jvo.nao.ac.jp/index-e.html; http://www.cadc-ccda.hia-iha.nrc-cnrc.gc.ca/en/).
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K.A.G., I.V.C., A.V.A. and I.Y.K. acknowledge the Russian Science Foundation (RScF) grants no. 19-12-00281 for supporting the search of UDG progenitors and data analysis of a multiwavelength spectrophotometric dataset, and no. 17-72-20119 for supporting the development of stellar population models used in the data analysis; and the Interdisciplinary Scientific and Educational School of Moscow University ‘Fundamental and Applied Space Research’. K.A.G. acknowledges support from the foundation of development of theoretical physics and mathematics ‘Basis’. I.V.C.’s research is supported by the Telescope Data Center at Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory. We thank D. Eisenstein, F. Combes, G. Mamon and O. Sil’chenko for fruitful discussions related to this project. We are grateful to the staff of the MMT Observatory jointly operated by the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and the University of Arizona for their support of Binospec operations and service mode observations. This study is based in part on data collected at the Subaru Telescope and retrieved from the Suprime-Cam and Hyper Suprime-Cam data archive system, which is operated by the Subaru Telescope and Astronomy Data Center at the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan and on observations obtained at the international Gemini Observatory (proposal GN-2017A-FT-22), a programme of NSF’s NOIRLab, which is managed by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) under a cooperative agreement with the National Science Foundation on behalf of the Gemini Observatory partnership: the National Science Foundation (USA), National Research Council (Canada), Agencia Nacional de Investigación y Desarrollo (Chile), Ministerio de Ciencia, Tecnología e Innovación (Argentina), Ministério da Ciência, Tecnologia, Inovações e Comunicações (Brazil) and Korea Astronomy and Space Science Institute (Republic of Korea).
The authors declare no competing interests.
Peer review information Nature Astronomy thanks Jeffrey Kenney and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.
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Extended Data Fig. 1 Low-contrast filaments suspected to be ram-pressure-stripped tails for five Coma galaxies.
For GMP 2639 we show an inverted Rc-band image binned with a 4 × 4 pix window. For GMP 4118 and GMP 4348 we show Hα images without continuum subtraction convolved with a 2-D Gaussian kernel having FWHM in range 5…7 pix depending on S/N of input images. For GMP 3176 we show a difference between B and Rc Subaru frames. A spot at the end of the short filament in GMP 4188 pointed by an arrow is a bright Hα source.
Extended Data Fig. 2 Observed data (black) degraded down to correspond template resolution and best-fitting templates (red) for Binospec spectra (left panels) and broad-band SEDs (right panels) for PSGs from the main sample.
For the spectra we also show 1σ uncertainty profiles (magenta) and fitting residuals (grey). SED panels show observations and best-fitting models as black and red dots correspondingly. The residuals are shown with black stars around a cyan line representing zero level in the same scale as SEDs. The upper right corner of each spectrum contains a median signal-to-noise ratio for a degraded spectrum per pixel. Main spectral features and broad-band filter bandpasses are marked in the upper row of panels.
Extended Data Fig. 4 Resolved stellar population profiles for the PSGs from the main sample and GMP 3016 obtained from full spectral fitting of long-slit spectra using pegase.hr-based templates28.
We perform the χ2 minimization varying the truncation age and final metallicity which describes the metallicity of final starburst while other parameters (wind coefficients and SB fraction) are fixed to values derived from the modelling of the coadded 1D spectra with broadband photometry. For galaxies with non-radial age gradients likely caused by the ram pressure stripping, solid blue lines show the gradient trend sometimes over-imposed on the radial gradient illustrating the outside-in quenching. Dotted and dashed lines mark ± re/2 and ± re respectively.
Extended Data Fig. 5 A number of UDGs from the Subaru Coma cluster survey36 that could pass the SDSS spectroscopic selection criteria and satisfy our PSG selection criteria at some moment during their lifetime as a function of a mass fraction of stars born in the final star burst for three different truncation ages: 5, 8, and 10 Gyr.
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Grishin, K.A., Chilingarian, I.V., Afanasiev, A.V. et al. Transforming gas-rich low-mass disky galaxies into ultra-diffuse galaxies by ram pressure. Nat Astron 5, 1308–1318 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41550-021-01470-5