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Evidence for PopIII-like Stellar Populations in the Most Luminous Lyman-α Emitters at the Epoch of Reionization: Spectroscopic Confirmation

D. Sobral, J. Matthee, B. Darvish, D. Schaerer, B. Mobasher, H. J. A. Röttgering, S. Santos, S. Hemmati

Faint Lyα emitters become increasingly rarer toward the reionization epoch (z ~ 6–7). However, observations from a very large (~5 deg2) Lyα narrow-band survey at z = 6.6 show that this is not the case for the most luminous emitters, capable of ionizing their own local bubbles. Here we present follow-up observations of the two most luminous Lyα candidates in the COSMOS field: "MASOSA" and "CR7." We used X-SHOOTER, SINFONI, and FORS2 on the Very Large Telescope, and DEIMOS on Keck, to confirm both candidates beyond any doubt. We find redshifts of z = 6.541 and z = 6.604 for "MASOSA" and "CR7," respectively. MASOSA has a strong detection in Lyα with a line width of 386 ± 30 km s−1 (FWHM) and with very high EW0 (>200 Å), but undetected in the continuum, implying very low stellar mass and a likely young, metal-poor stellar population. "CR7," with an observed Lyα luminosity of 1043.92±0.05 erg s−1 is the most luminous Lyα emitter ever found at z > 6 and is spatially extended (~16 kpc). "CR7" reveals a narrow Lyα line with 266 ± 15 km s−1 FWHM, being detected in the near-infrared (NIR) (rest-frame UV; β = −2.3 ± 0.1) and in IRAC/Spitzer. We detect a narrow He ii 1640 Å emission line (6σ, FWHM = 130 ± 30 km s−1) in CR7 which can explain the clear excess seen in the J-band photometry (EW0 ~ 80 Å). We find no other emission lines from the UV to the NIR in our X-SHOOTER spectra (He ii/O iii] 1663 Å > 3 and He ii/C iii] 1908 Å > 2.5). We conclude that CR7 is best explained by a combination of a PopIII-like population, which dominates the rest-frame UV and the nebular emission, and a more normal stellar population, which presumably dominates the mass. Hubble Space Telescope/WFC3 observations show that the light is indeed spatially separated between a very blue component, coincident with Lyα and He ii emission, and two red components (~5 kpc away), which dominate the mass. Our findings are consistent with theoretical predictions of a PopIII wave, with PopIII star formation migrating away from the original sites of star formation.

dark ages - reionization - first stars - early universe - galaxies: evolution

The Astrophysical Journal
Volume 808, Number 2, Page 139
2015 August

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Faculdade de Ciências da Universidade de Lisboa Universidade do Porto Faculdade de Ciências e Tecnologia da Universidade de Coimbra
Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia COMPETE 2020 PORTUGAL 2020 União Europeia