A Close Relationship between Lyα and Mg II in Green Pea Galaxies

Alaina Henry, Danielle A. Berg, Claudia Scarlata, Anne Verhamme, Dawn Erb

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30 Scopus citations


The Mg ii λλ2796, 2803 doublet is often used to measure interstellar medium absorption in galaxies, thereby serving as a diagnostic for feedback and outflows. However, the interpretation of Mg ii remains confusing, due to resonant trapping and re-emission of the photons, analogous to Lyα. Therefore, in this paper, we present new MMT Blue Channel Spectrograph observations of Mg ii for a sample of 10 Green Pea galaxies at z ∼ 0.2-0.3, where Lyα was previously observed with the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph on the Hubble Space Telescope. With strong, (mostly) double-peaked Lyα profiles, these galaxies allow us to observe Mg ii in the limit of low H i column density. We find strong Mg ii emission and little-to-no absorption. We use photoionization models to show that nebular Mg ii from H ii regions is non-negligible, and the ratios of Mg ii λλ2796, 2803/[O iii] λ5007 versus [O iii] λ5007/[O ii] λ3727 form a tight sequence. Using this relation, we predict intrinsic Mg ii flux, and show that Mg ii escape fractions range from 0 to 0.9. We find that the Mg ii escape fraction correlates tightly with the Lyα escape fraction, and the Mg ii line profiles show evidence for broader and more redshifted emission when the escape fractions are low. These trends are expected if the escape fractions and velocity profiles of Lyα and Mg ii are shaped by resonant scattering in the same low column density gas. As a consequence of a close relation with Lyα, Mg ii may serve as a useful diagnostic in the epoch of reionization, where Lyα and Lyman continuum photons are not easily observed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number96
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 10 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors thank the anonymous referee for insightful comments, which improved this work. A.H. thanks Marc Rafelski, Nicolas Bouché, Tim Heckman, and Molly Peeples for useful suggestions, Anne Jaskot for help with Cloudy models, and James White for reducing the Keck/ESI spectra. The authors also wish to thank the Lorentz Center for facilitating collaboration during the “Characterizing Galaxies with Spectroscopy with a view for JWST” workshop. This work was supported in part by HST GO 13654.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018. The American Astronomical Society. All rights reserved..


  • galaxies: evolution
  • galaxies: high-redshift
  • galaxies: starburst


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