Galaxy Merger Candidates in High-redshift Cluster Environments
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We compile a sample of spectroscopically and photometrically selected cluster galaxies from four high-redshift galaxy clusters (1.59 < z < 1.71) from the Spitzer Adaptation of the Red-Sequence Cluster Survey (SpARCS), and a comparison field sample selected from the UKIDSS Deep Survey. Using near-infrared imaging from the Hubble Space Telescope, we classify potential mergers involving massive (M∗ ≥ 3 × 1010M⊙) cluster members by eye, based on morphological properties such as tidal distortions, double nuclei, and projected near neighbors within 20 kpc. With a catalog of 23 spectroscopic and 32 photometric massive cluster members across the four clusters and 65 spectroscopic and 26 photometric comparable field galaxies, we find that after taking into account contamination from interlopers, 11+7.0-5.6% of the cluster members are involved in potential mergers, compared to 24.7+5.3-4.6% of the field galaxies. We see no evidence of merger enhancement in the central cluster environment with respect to the field, suggesting that galaxy-galaxy merging is not a stronger source of galaxy evolution in cluster environments compared to the field at these redshifts.
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