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The MUSE Extremely Deep Field: The cosmic web in emission at high redshift

R. Bacon, D. Mary, T. Garel, J. Blaizot, M. V. Maseda, J. Schaye, L. Wisotzki, S. Conseil, J. Brinchmann, F. Leclercq, V. Abril-Melgarejo, L. A. Boogaard, N. F. Bouché, T. Contini, A. Feltre, B. Guiderdoni, C. Herenz, W. Kollatschny, H. Kusakabe, J. Matthee, L. Michel-Dansac, T. Nanayakkara, J. Richard, M. M. Roth, K. B. Schmidt, M. Steinmetz, L. Tresse, T. del Río-Gaztelurrutia, A. Verhamme, P. M. Weilbacher, J. Zabl, S. L. Zoutendijk

We report the discovery of diffuse extended Lyα emission from redshift 3.1 to 4.5, tracing cosmic web filaments on scales of 2.5−4 cMpc. These structures have been observed in overdensities of Lyα emitters in the MUSE Extremely Deep Field, a 140 h deep MUSE observation located in the Hubble Ultra-Deep Field. Among the 22 overdense regions identified, five are likely to harbor very extended Lyα emission at high significance with an average surface brightness of 5 × 10−20 erg s−1 cm−2 arcsec−2. Remarkably, 70% of the total Lyα luminosity from these filaments comes from beyond the circumgalactic medium of any identified Lyα emitter. Fluorescent Lyα emission powered by the cosmic UV background can only account for less than 34% of this emission at z ≈ 3 and for not more than 10% at higher redshift. We find that the bulk of this diffuse emission can be reproduced by the unresolved Lyα emission of a large population of ultra low-luminosity Lyα emitters (< 1040 erg s−1), provided that the faint end of the Lyα luminosity function is steep (α ⪅ −1.8), it extends down to luminosities lower than 1038 − 1037 erg s−1, and the clustering of these Lyα emitters is significant (filling factor < 1/6). If these Lyα emitters are powered by star formation, then this implies their luminosity function needs to extend down to star formation rates < 10−4 M yr−1. These observations provide the first detection of the cosmic web in Lyα emission in typical filamentary environments and the first observational clue indicating the existence of a large population of ultra low-luminosity Lyα emitters at high redshift.

galaxies: high-redshift / galaxies: groups: general / cosmology: observations

Based on observations made with ESO telescopes at the La Silla Paranal Observatory under the large program 1101.A-0127.

Astronomy & Astrophysics
Volume 647, Article Number A107, Number of pages 26
2021 March

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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