CLASSY. VIII. Exploring the Source of Ionization with UV Interstellar Medium Diagnostics in Local High-z Analogs

Matilde Mingozzi, Bethan L. James, Danielle A. Berg, Karla Z. Arellano-Córdova, Adele Plat, Claudia Scarlata, Alessandra Aloisi, Ricardo O. Amorín, Jarle Brinchmann, Stéphane Charlot, John Chisholm, Anna Feltre, Simon Gazagnes, Matthew Hayes, Timothy Heckman, Svea Hernandez, Lisa J. Kewley, Nimisha Kumari, Claus Leitherer, Crystal L. MartinMichael Maseda, Themiya Nanayakkara, Swara Ravindranath, Jane R. Rigby, Peter Senchyna, Evan D. Skillman, Yuma Sugahara, Stephen M. Wilkins, Aida Wofford, Xinfeng Xu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


In the current JWST era, rest-frame UV spectra play a crucial role in enhancing our understanding of the interstellar medium (ISM) and stellar properties of the first galaxies in the epoch of reionization (z > 6). Here, we compare well-known and reliable optical diagrams sensitive to the main ionization source (i.e., star formation, SF; active galactic nuclei, AGN; and shocks) to UV counterparts proposed in the literature—the so-called “UV-BPT diagrams”—using the HST COS Legacy Archive Spectroscopic SurveY (CLASSY), which is the largest high-quality, high-resolution, and broad-wavelength range atlas of far-UV spectra for 45 local star-forming galaxies. In particular, we explore where CLASSY UV line ratios are located in the different UV diagnostic plots, taking into account state-of-the-art photoionization and shock models, and, for the first time, the measured ISM and stellar properties (e.g., gas-phase metallicity, ionization parameter, carbon abundance, and stellar age). We find that the combination of C iii] λ λ1907,9 He ii λ1640 and O iii] λ1666 can be a powerful tool to separate between SF, shocks, and AGN at subsolar metallicities. We also confirm that alternative diagrams without O iii] λ1666 still allow us to define an SF-locus, with some caveats. Diagrams including C iv λ λ1548,51 should be taken with caution given the complexity of this doublet profile. Finally, we present a discussion detailing the ISM conditions required to detect UV emission lines, visible only in low gas-phase metallicity (12 + log(O/H) ≲ 8.3) and high ionization parameter (log(U) ≳ −2.5) environments. Overall, CLASSY and our UV toolkit will be crucial in interpreting the spectra of the earliest galaxies that JWST is currently revealing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number95
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 2024

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© 2024. The Author(s). Published by the American Astronomical Society.


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