The VIMOS Public Extragalactic Redshift Survey (VIPERS). A precise measurement of the galaxy stellar mass function and the abundance of massive galaxies at redshifts 0.5<z<1.3
We measure the evolution of the galaxy stellar mass function from z=1.3 to z=0.5 using the first 53,608 redshifts of the ongoing VIMOS Public Extragalactic Survey (VIPERS). We estimate the galaxy stellar mass function at several epochs between z=0.5 and 1.3, discussing in detail the amount of cosmic variance affecting our estimate. We find that Poisson noise and cosmic variance of the galaxy mass function in the VIPERS survey are comparable with the statistical uncertainties of large surveys in the local universe. VIPERS data allow us to determine with unprecedented accuracy the high-mass tail of the galaxy stellar mass function, which includes a significant number of galaxies that are usually too rare to detect with any of the past spectroscopic surveys. At the epochs sampled by VIPERS, massive galaxies had already assembled most of their stellar mass. We apply a photometric classification in the (U-V) rest-frame colour to compute the mass function of blue and red galaxies, finding evidence for the evolution of their contribution to the total number density budget: the transition mass above which red galaxies dominate is found to be about 10^10.4 M_sun at z=0.55 and evolves proportional to (1+z)^3. We are able to trace separately the evolution of the number density of blue and red galaxies with masses above 10^11.4 M_sun, in a mass range barely studied in previous work due to the small volumes surveyed. We find that for such large masses, red galaxies show a milder evolution with redshift, when compared to objects at lower masses. At the same time, we detect a population of similarly massive blue galaxies, which are no longer detectable below z=0.7. These results show the improved statistical power of VIPERS data, and give initial promising indications of mass-dependent quenching of galaxies at z~1.