Comparing PyMorph and SDSS photometry. II. The differences are more than semantics and are not dominated by intracluster light [GA]

The Sloan Digital Sky Survey pipeline photometry underestimates the brightnesses of the most luminous galaxies. This is mainly because (i) the SDSS overestimates the sky background and (ii) single or two-component Sersic-based models better fit the surface brightness profile of galaxies, especially at high luminosities, than does the de Vaucouleurs model used by the SDSS pipeline. We use the PyMorph photometric reductions to isolate effect (ii) and show that it is the same in the full sample as in small group environments, and for satellites in the most massive clusters as well. None of these are expected to be significantly affected by intracluster light (ICL). We only see an additional effect for centrals in the most massive halos, but we argue that even this is not dominated by ICL. Hence, for the vast majority of galaxies, the differences between PyMorph and SDSS pipeline photometry cannot be ascribed to the semantics of whether or not one includes the ICL when describing the stellar mass of massive galaxies. Rather, they likely reflect differences in star formation or assembly histories. Failure to account for the SDSS underestimate has significantly biased most previous estimates of the SDSS luminosity and stellar mass functions, and therefore Halo Model estimates of the z ~ 0.1 relation between the mass of a halo and that of the galaxy at its center. We also show that when one studies correlations, at fixed group mass, with a quantity which was not used to define the groups, then selection effects appear. We show why such effects arise, and should not be mistaken for physical effects.

Read this paper on arXiv…

M. Bernardi, J. Fischer, R. Sheth, et. al.
Wed, 1 Mar 17

Comments: 15 pages, 17 figures, submitted to MNRAS (revised based on the first referee report). The PyMorph luminosities and stellar masses are available at