We present a photometric catalogue of compact groups of galaxies (p2MCGs) automatically extracted from the Two-Micron All Sky Survey (2MASS) extended source catalogue. A total of 262 p2MCGs are identified, following the criteria defined by Hickson, of which 230 survive visual inspection (given occasional galaxy fragmentation and blends in the 2MASS parent catalogue). Only one quarter of these 230 groups were previously known compact groups (CGs). Among the 144 p2MCGs that have all their galaxies with known redshifts, 85 (59 per cent) have four or more accordant galaxies. This v2MCG sample of velocity-filtered p2MCGs constitutes the largest sample of CGs (with N ≥ 4) catalogued to date, with both well-defined selection criteria and velocity filtering, and is the first CG sample selected by stellar mass. It is fairly complete up to Kgroup ∼ 9 and radial velocity of ∼6000 km s−1.
We compared the properties of the 78 v2MCGs with median velocities greater than 3000 km s−1 with the properties of other CG samples, as well as those (mvCGs) extracted from the semi-analytical model (SAM) of Guo et al. run on the high-resolution Millennium-II simulation. This mvCG sample is similar (i.e. with 2/3 of physically dense CGs) to those we had previously extracted on three other SAMs run on the Millennium simulation with 125 times worse spatial and mass resolutions. The space density of v2MCGs within 6000 km s−1 is 8.0 × 10−5 h3 Mpc−3, i.e. four times that of the Hickson sample [Hickson Compact Group (HCG)] up to the same distance and with the same criteria used in this work, but still 40 per cent less than that of mvCGs.
The v2MCG constitutes the first group catalogue to show a statistically large first–second ranked galaxy magnitude gap according to Tremaine–Richstone statistics, as expected if the first ranked group members tend to be the products of galaxy mergers, and as confirmed in the mvCGs. The v2MCG is also the first observed sample to show that first-ranked galaxies tend to be centrally located, again consistent with the predictions obtained from mvCGs. We found no significant correlation of group apparent elongation and velocity dispersion in the quartets among the v2MCGs, and the velocity dispersions of apparently round quartets are not significantly larger than those of chain-like ones, in contrast to what has been previously reported in HCGs.
By virtue of its automatic selection with the popular Hickson criteria, its size, its selection on stellar mass, and its statistical signs of mergers and centrally located brightest galaxies, the v2MCG catalogue appears to be the laboratory of choice to study physically dense groups of four or more galaxies of comparable luminosity.