Evolution of the observed Lyα luminosity function from z = 6.5 to z = 7.7: evidence for the epoch of reionization?⋆
Laboratoire d’Astrophysique de Marseille, CNRS UMR 7326, Université
d’Aix-Marseille, 38 rue Frédéric
Marseille Cedex 13,
2 Steward Observatory, University of Arizona, 933 N. Cherry Ave, Tucson, AZ 85721, USA
3 Laboratoire d’astrophysique, École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), Observatoire de Sauverny, 1290 Versoix, Switzerland
4 INAF Osservatorio Astronomico di Roma, via Frascati 33, 00040 Monteporzio ( RM), Italy
5 European Southern Observatory, Karl-Schwarzschild Strasse, 85748 Garching bei München, Germany
6 Dark Cosmology Centre, Niels Bohr Institute, Copenhagen University, Juliane Maries Vej 30, 2100 Copenhagen Ø, Denmark
7 Departamento de Astrofísica, Facultad de CC, Físicas, Universidad Complutense de Madrid, 28040 Madrid, Spain
8 School of Earth and Space Exploration, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ 85287, USA
9 Australian Astronomical Observatory, Epping, NSW 1710, Australia
10 Institute of Astronomy, Madingley Road, Cambridge CB3 0HA, UK
11 Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Victoria, Elliot Building, 3800 Finnerty Road, Victoria, BC, V8P 1A1, Canada
Accepted: 19 September 2011
Aims. Lyα emitters (LAEs) can be detected out to very high redshifts during the epoch of reionization. The evolution of the LAE luminosity function with redshift is a direct probe of the Lyα transmission of the intergalactic medium (IGM), and therefore of the IGM neutral-hydrogen fraction. Measuring the Lyα luminosity function (LF) of Lyα emitters at redshift z = 7.7 therefore allows us to constrain the ionizing state of the Universe at this redshift.
Methods. We observed three 7'.5 × 7'.5 fields with the HAWK-I instrument at the VLT with a narrow band filter centred at 1.06 μm and targeting Lyα emitters at redshift z ~ 7.7. The fields were chosen for the availability of multiwavelength data. One field is a galaxy cluster, the Bullet Cluster, which allowed us to use gravitational amplification to probe luminosities that are fainter than in the field. The two other fields are subareas of the GOODS Chandra Deep Field South and CFHTLS-D4 deep field. We selected z = 7.7 LAE candidates from a variety of colour criteria, in particular from the absence of detection in the optical bands.
Results. We do not find any LAE candidates at z = 7.7 in ~2.4 × 104 Mpc3 down to a narrow band AB magnitude of ~26, which allows us to infer robust constraints on the Lyα LAE luminosity function at this redshift.
Conclusions. The predicted mean number of objects at z = 6.5, derived from somewhat different luminosity functions of Hu et al. (2010, ApJ, 725, 394), Ouchi et al. (2010, ApJ, 723, 869), and Kashikawa et al. (2011, ApJ, 734, 119) are 2.5, 13.7, and 11.6, respectively. Depending on which of these luminosity functions we refer to, we exclude a scenario with no evolution from z = 6.5 to z = 7.7 at 85% confidence without requiring a strong change in the IGM Lyα transmission, or at 99% confidence with a significant quenching of the IGM Lyα transmission, possibly from a strong increase in the high neutral-hydrogen fraction between these two redshifts.
Key words: methods: observational / early Universe / galaxies: high-redshift / techniques: image processing / galaxies: luminosity function, mass function / dark ages, reionization, first stars
Based on observations collected at the European Organisation for Astronomical Research in the Southern Hemisphere (ESO), Chile, Prog-Id 181.A-0485, 181.A-0717, 60.A-9284, 084.A-0749. Based on observations obtained at the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope (CFHT) which is operated by the National Research Council (NRC) of Canada, the Institut National des Sciences de l’Univers of the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique of France (CNRS), and the University of Hawaii. This work is based in part on observations obtained with MegaPrime/MegaCam, a joint project of CFHT and CEA/DAPNIA and in part on data products produced at TERAPIX and the Canadian Astronomy Data Centre as part of the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope Legacy Survey, a collaborative project of NRC and CNRS. This paper includes data gathered with the 6.5 m Magellan Telescopes located at Las Campanas Observatory, Chile.
© ESO, 2012