Beyond UVJ: More Efficient Selection of Quiescent Galaxies with Ultraviolet/Mid-infrared Fluxes

Joel Leja, Sandro Tacchella, Charlie Conroy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


The UVJ color-color diagram is a popular and efficient method to distinguish between quiescent and star-forming galaxies through their rest-frame U-V versus V-J colors. Here we explore the information content of this color-color space using the Bayesian inference machine Prospector. We fit the same physical model to two data sets: (i) UVJ fluxes alone, and (ii) full UV-mid IR (MIR) broadband spectral energy distributions from the 3D-HST survey. Notably this model uses both nonparametric star formation histories and a flexible dust attenuation curve, both of which have the potential to "break" the typical correlations observed in UVJ color-color space. Instead, these fits confirm observed trends between UVJ colors and observed galaxy properties, including specific star formation rate (sSFR), dust attenuation, stellar age, and stellar metallicity. They also demonstrate that UVJ colors do not, on their own, constrain stellar age or metallicity; the observed trends in the UVJ diagram are instead driven by galaxy scaling relationships and thus will evolve with cosmological time. We also show that UVJ colors "saturate" below , i.e., changing sSFR no longer produces substantial changes in UVJ colors. We show that far-UV and/or MIR fluxes continue to correlate with sSFR down to low sSFRs and can be used in color-color diagrams to efficiently target galaxies with much lower levels of ongoing star formation. We provide selection criteria in these new color-color spaces as a function of desired sample sSFR.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberL9
JournalAstrophysical Journal Letters
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 20 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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