Using 10 095 galaxies (B < 20 mag) from the Millennium Galaxy Catalogue, we derive B-band luminosity distributions and selected bivariate brightness distributions for the galaxy population subdivided by eyeball morphology; Sérsic index (n); two-degree Field Galaxy Redshift Survey (2dFGRS) η parameter; rest- (u−r) colour (global and core); MGC continuum shape; half-light radius; (extrapolated) central surface brightness; and inferred stellar mass-to-light ratio. All subdivisions extract highly correlated subsets of the galaxy population which consistently point towards two overlapping distributions: an old, red, inert, predominantly luminous, high central-surface brightness subset; and a young, blue, star forming, intermediate surface brightness subset. A clear bimodality in the observed distribution is seen in both the rest- (u−r) colour and log (n) distributions. Whilst the former bimodality was well established from Sloan Digital Sky Survey data, we show here that the rest- (u−r) colour bimodality becomes more pronounced when using the core colour as opposed to global colour. The two populations are extremely well separated in the colour–log(n) plane. Using our sample of 3314 (B < 19 mag) eyeball classified galaxies, we show that the bulge-dominated, early-type galaxies populate one peak and the bulge-less, late-type galaxies occupy the second. The early- and mid-type spirals sprawl across and between the peaks. This constitutes extremely strong evidence that the fundamental way to divide the luminous galaxy population ( MBMGC− 5 log h < −16 mag , i.e. dwarfs not included) is into bulges (old red, inert, high concentration) and discs (young, blue, star forming, low concentration) and that the galaxy bimodality reflects the two-component nature of galaxies and not two distinct galaxy classes. We argue that these two components require two independent formation mechanisms/processes and advocate early bulge formation through initial collapse and ongoing disc formation through splashback, infall and merging/accretion. We calculate the B-band luminosity densities and stellar mass densities within each subdivision and estimate that the z≈ 0 stellar mass content in spheroids, bulges and discs is 35 ± 2, 18 ± 7 and 47 ± 7 per cent, respectively.
Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, Vol. 368, no. 1 (May 2006), pp. 414-434