Characterizing Extreme Emission-line Galaxies. I. A Four-zone Ionization Model for Very High-ionization Emission

Danielle A. Berg, John Chisholm, Dawn K. Erb, Evan D. Skillman, Richard W. Pogge, Grace M. Olivier

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45 Scopus citations


Stellar population models produce radiation fields that ionize oxygen up to O+2, defining the limit of standard H II region models (<54.9 eV). Yet, some extreme emission-line galaxies, or EELGs, have surprisingly strong emission originating from much higher ionization potentials. We present UV HST/COS and optical LBT/MODS spectra of two nearby EELGs that have very high-ionization emission lines (e.g., He ii λλ1640,4686 C iv λλ1548,1550, [Fe v]λ4227, [Ar iv]λλ4711,4740). We define a four-zone ionization model that is augmented by a very high-ionization zone, as characterized by He+2 (>54.4 eV). The four-zone model has little to no effect on the measured total nebular abundances, but does change the interpretation of other EELG properties: we measure steeper central ionization gradients; higher volume-averaged ionization parameters; and higher central Te, ne, and log U values. Traditional three-zone estimates of the ionization parameter can underestimate the average log U by up to 0.5 dex. Additionally, we find a model-independent dichotomy in the abundance patterns, where the α/H abundances are consistent but N/H, C/H, and Fe/H are relatively deficient, suggesting these EELGs are α/Fe-enriched by more than three times. However, there still is a high-energy ionizing photon production problem (HEIP3). Even for such α/Fe enrichment and very high log U s, photoionization models cannot reproduce the very high-ionization emission lines observed in EELGs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number170
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 1 2021

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