EDP Sciences
Free Access
Volume 374, Number 2, August I 2001
Page(s) 443 - 453
Section Extragalactic astronomy
DOI https://doi.org/10.1051/0004-6361:20010739
Published online 15 August 2001

A&A 374, 443-453 (2001)
DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361:20010739

Probing the faint end of the Galaxy luminosity function at $\vec{z}=$ 3 with Ly$\alpha$ emission

J. U. Fynbo1, P. Møller1 and B. Thomsen2

1  European Southern Observatory, Karl-Schwarzschild-Straße 2, 85748 Garching, Germany
2  Institute of Physics and Astronomy, Århus University, 8000 Århus C., Denmark

(Received 15 March 2001 / Accepted 21 May 2001 )

We present spectroscopic observations obtained with the ESO Very Large Telecope (VLT) of seven candidate Ly$\alpha$ emitting galaxies in the field of the radio quiet Q1205-30 at z=3.04 previously detected with deep narrow band imaging. Based on equivalent widths and limits on line ratios we confirm that all seven objects are Ly$\alpha$ emitting galaxies. Deep images also obtained with the VLT in the B and I bands show that five of the seven galaxies have very faint continuum fluxes ( $I({\rm AB})\approx26.8$ and $B({\rm AB})\approx27.3$). The star formation rates of these seven galaxies estimated from the rest-frame UV continuum around 2000 Å, as probed by the I-band detections, as well as from the Ly$\alpha$ luminosities, are 1-4 $M_{\odot}$ yr-1 assuming a Hubble constant of 65 km s-1 Mpc-1, $\Omega_m=0.3$, and $\Omega_{\Lambda}=0.7$. This is 1-3 orders of magnitude lower than for other known populations of star-forming galaxies at similar redshifts (the Lyman-Break galaxies and the sub-mm selected sources). The inferred density of the objects is high, $16\pm4$ per arcmin2 per unit redshift. This is consistent with the integrated luminosity function for Lyman-Break galaxies down to R=27 if the fraction of Ly$\alpha$ emitting galaxies is $\approx$70% at the faint end of the luminosity function. However, if this fraction is 20% as reported for the bright end of the luminosity function then the space density in this field is significantly larger (by a factor of 3.5) than expected from the luminosity function for Lyman-Break galaxies in the HDF-North. This would be an indication that at least some radio quiet QSOs at high redshift reside in overdense environments or that the faint end slope of the high redshift luminosity function has been underestimated. We find evidence that the faint Ly$\alpha$ galaxies are essentially dust-free. These observations show that Ly$\alpha$ emission is an efficient method by which to probe the faint end of the luminosity function at high redshifts.

Key words: galaxies: formation -- quasars: absorption lines -- quasars: individual: Q1205-30

Offprint request: J. U. Fynbo, jfynbo@eso.org

SIMBAD Objects

© ESO 2001

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