Hubble space telescope counts of elliptical galaxies: Constraints on cosmological models?

Simon P. Driver, Rogier Windhorst, Steven Phillipps, Paul D. Bristow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


The interpretation of galaxy number counts in terms of cosmological models is fraught with difficulty because of uncertainties in the overall galaxy population (mix of morphological types, luminosity functions, etc.) and in the observations (loss of low surface brightness images, image blending, etc.). Many of these can be overcome if we use deep high-resolution imaging of a single class of high surface brightness galaxies, whose evolution is thought to be fairly well understood. This is now possible by selecting elliptical and SO galaxies using Hubble Space Telescope images from the Medium Deep Survey and other ultradeep Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2 images. In the present paper, we examine whether such data can be used to discriminate between open and closed universes, or between conventional cosmological models and those dominated by a cosmological constant. We find, based on the currently available data, that unless elliptical galaxies undergo very strong merging since z ∼ 1 (and/or very large errors exist in the morphological classifications), then flat models dominated by a cosmological constant are ruled out. However, both an Einstein-de Sitter (Ω0 = 1) model with standard passive stellar evolution and an open (Ω0 = 0-05) model with no net evolution (i.e., canceling stellar and dynamical evolution) predict virtually identical elliptical and SO galaxy counts. Based on these findings and the recent reportings of H0 ≃ 80 km s-1 Mpc-1, we find that the maximum acceptable age of the universe is 13.3 Gyr, and a value of ≤9 Gyr is favored. A flat (A = 0) universe is therefore not a viable solution to the H0/globular cluster age problem.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)525-533
Number of pages9
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2 PART I
StatePublished - 1996


  • Cosmology: Observations
  • Galaxies: Elliptical and lenticular, cD
  • Galaxies: Evolution
  • Galaxies: Statistics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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