Deep Hubble space telescope search for escaping lyman continuum flux at z ∼ 1.3: Evidence for an evolving ionizing emissivity

Brian Siana, Harry I. Teplitz, Henry C. Ferguson, Thomas M. Brown, Mauro Giavalisco, Mark Dickinson, Ranga Ram Chary, Duilia F. De Mello, Christopher J. Conselice, Carrie R. Bridge, Jonathan P. Gardner, James W. Colberert, Claudia Scarlata

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138 Scopus citations


We have obtained deep Hubble Space Telescope far-UV images of 15 starburst galaxies at z ∼ 1.3 in the GOODS fields to search for escaping Lyman continuum (LyC) photons. These are the deepest far-UV images (mAB = 28.7, 3σ, 1" diameter) over this large an area (4.83 arcmin2) and provide some of the best escape fraction constraints for any galaxies at any redshift. We do not detect any individual galaxies, with 3σ limits to the LyC (∼700 A°) flux 50.149 times fainter (in fv ) than the rest-frame UV (1500 A°) continuum fluxes. Correcting for the mean intergalactic medium (IGM) attenuation (factor ∼2), as well as an intrinsic stellar Lyman break (factor ∼3), these limits translate to relative escape fraction limits of fesc,rel < [0.03, 0.21]. The stacked limit is fesc,rel (3σ) < 0.02. We use a Monte Carlo simulation to properly account for the expected distribution of line-of-sight IGM opacities. When including constraints from previous surveys at z ∼ 1.3 we find that, at the 95% confidence level, no more than 8% of star-forming galaxies at z ∼ 1.3 can have relative escape fractions greater than 0.50. Alternatively, if the majority of galaxies have low, but non-zero, escaping LyC, the escape fraction cannot be more than 0.04. In light of some evidence for strong LyC emission from UV-faint regions of Lyman break galaxies (LBGs) at z ∼ 3, we also stack sub-regions of our galaxies with different surface brightnesses and detect no significant LyC flux at the fesc,rel < 0.03 level. Both the stacked limits and the limits from the Monte Carlo simulation suggest that the average ionizing emissivity (relative to non-ionizing UV emissivity) at z ∼ 1.3 is significantly lower than has been observed in LBGs at z ∼ 3. If the ionizing emissivity of star-forming galaxies is in fact increasing with redshift, itwould help to explain the high photoionization rates seen in the IGMatz > 4 and reionization of the IGM atz > 6.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)241-250
Number of pages10
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Nov 1 2010


  • Galaxies: high-redshift
  • Galaxies: starburst
  • Intergalactic medium
  • Ultraviolet: galaxies


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