Galaxy Zoo: CANDELS barred discs and bar fractions
The formation of bars in disc galaxies is a tracer of the dynamical maturity of the population. Previous studies have found that the incidence of bars in discs decreases from the local Universe to z similar to 1, and by z > 1 simulations predict that bar features in dynamically mature discs should be extremely rare. Here, we report the discovery of strong barred structures in massive disc galaxies at z similar to 1.5 in deep rest-frame optical images from the Cosmic Assembly Near-Infrared Deep Extragalactic Legacy Survey. From within a sample of 876 disc galaxies identified by visual classification in Galaxy Zoo, we identify 123 barred galaxies. Selecting a subsample within the same region of the evolving galaxy luminosity function (brighter than L*), we find that the bar fraction across the redshift range 0.5 <= z <= 2 (f(bar) = 10.7(-3.5)(+6.3) per cent after correcting for incompleteness) does not significantly evolve. We discuss the implications of this discovery in the context of existing simulations and our current understanding of the way disc galaxies have evolved over the last 11 billion years.