On Detecting Halo Assembly Bias with Galaxy Populations
The fact that the clustering of dark matter halos depends not only on their mass, but also the formation epoch, is a prominent, albeit subtle, feature of the cold dark matter structure formation theory, and is known as assembly bias. At low mass scales (∼ 1012 h −1M⊙), early-forming halos are predicted to be more strongly clustered than the late-forming ones. In this study we aim to robustly detect the signature of assembly bias observationally, making use of formation time indicators of central galaxies in low mass halos as a proxy for the halo formation history. Weak gravitational lensing is employed to ensure our early- and late-forming halo samples have similar masses, and are free of contamination of satellites from more massive halos. For the two formation time indicators used (resolved star formation history and current specific star formation rate), we do not find convincing evidence of assembly bias. For a pair of early- and late-forming galaxy samples with mean mass M200c ≈ 9 × 1011 h −1M⊙, the relative bias is 1.00 ± 0.12. We attribute the lack of detection to the possibilities that either the current measurements of these indicators are too noisy, or they do not correlate well with the halo formation history. Alternative proxies for the halo formation history that should perform better are suggested for future studies.