A Near-Infrared Spectroscopic Survey of K-Selected Galaxies at z ~ 2.3: Redshifts and Implications for Broadband Photometric Studies
Using the Gemini Near-Infrared Spectrograph (GNIRS), we have completed a near-infrared spectroscopic survey for K-bright galaxies at z ~ 2.3 selected from the MUSYC survey. We derived spectroscopic redshifts from emission lines or from continuum features and shapes for all 36 observed galaxies. The continuum redshifts are driven by the Balmer/4000 Å break and have an uncertainty in Δ z/(1 + z) of <0.019. We use this unique sample to determine, for the first time, how accurately redshifts and other properties of massive high-redshift galaxies can be determined from broadband photometric data alone. We find that the photometric redshifts of the galaxies in our sample have a systematic error of 0.08 and a random error of 0.13 in Δ z/(1 + z) . The systematic error can be reduced by using optimal templates and deep photometry; the random error, however, will be hard to reduce below 5%. The spectra lead to significantly improved constraints for stellar population parameters. For most quantities this improvement is about equally driven by the higher spectral resolution and by the much reduced redshift uncertainty. Properties such as the age, AV, current star formation rate, and the star formation history are generally very poorly constrained with broadband data alone. Interestingly, stellar masses and mass-to-light ratios are among the most stable parameters from broadband data. Nevertheless, photometric studies may overestimate the number of massive galaxies at 2 < z < 3 and thus underestimate the evolution of the stellar mass density. Finally, the spectroscopy supports our previous finding that red galaxies dominate the high-mass end of the galaxy population at z = 2-3.