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Spectroscopy of z ∼ 7 candidate galaxies: using Lyman α to constrain the neutral fraction of hydrogen in the high-redshift universe

J. Caruana, A. J. Bunker, S. M. Wilkins, E. R. Stanway, S. Lorenzoni, H. Ebert

Following our previous spectroscopic observations of z > 7 galaxies with Gemini/Gemini Near Infra-Red Spectrograph (GNIRS) and Very Large Telescope (VLT)/XSHOOTER, which targeted a total of eight objects, we present here our results from a deeper and larger VLT/FOcal Reducer and Spectrograph (FORS2) spectroscopic sample of Wide Field Camera 3 selected z > 7 candidate galaxies. With our FORS2 setup we cover the 737–1070 nm wavelength range, enabling a search for Lyman α in the redshift range spanning 5.06–7.80. We target 22 z-band dropouts and find no evidence of Lyman α emission, with the exception of a tentative detection (<5σ, which is our adopted criterion for a secure detection) for one object. The upper limits on Lyman α flux and the broad-band magnitudes are used to constrain the rest-frame equivalent widths for this line emission. We analyse our FORS2 observations in combination with our previous GNIRS and XSHOOTER observations, and suggest that a simple model where the fraction of high rest-frame equivalent width emitters follows the trend seen at z = 3-6.5 is inconsistent with our non-detections at z ∼ 7.8 at the 96 per cent confidence level. This may indicate that a significant neutral H i fraction in the intergalactic medium suppresses Lyman α, with an estimated neutral fraction χHI0.5, in agreement with other estimates.

galaxies: evolution, galaxies: formation, galaxies: high-redshift, galaxies: starburst, ultraviolet: galaxies

Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Volume 443, Issue 4, Page 2831
2014 October

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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