1 Laboratoire d’Astrophysique, École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Observatoire de Sauverny, 1290 Versoix, Switzerland
2 Institut d’Astrophysique de Paris, UMR7095 CNRS, Université Pierre & Marie Curie, 98bis boulevard Arago, 75014 Paris, France
3 Spitzer Science Center, California Institute of Technology, 1200 E. California Blvd, Pasadena CA 91125, USA
4 Observatoire de Genève, 51 Ch. des Maillettes, 1290 Sauverny, Switzerland
5 CNRS, IRAP, 14 avenue Edouard Belin, 31400 Toulouse, France
6 Centro de Astrobiología (CSIC-INTA), Departamento de Astrofísica, POB 78, 28691 Villanueva de la Cañada, Spain
7 Université de Toulouse, UPS-OMP, IRAP, 31400 Toulouse, France
8 Department of Astronomy, Oskar Klein Centre, Stockholm University, AlbaNova University Centre, 106 91 Stockholm, Sweden
Received: 20 March 2013
Accepted: 27 August 2013
Context. Among the different observational techniques used to select high-redshift galaxies, the hydrogen recombination line Lyman-alpha (Lyα) is of particular interest because it gives access to the measurement of cosmological quantities such as the star formation rate (SFR) of distant galaxy populations. However, interpreting this line and calibrating such observables are still subject to serious uncertainties.
Aims. In this context, it important to understand the mechanisms responsible for the attenuation of Lyα emission, and under what conditions the Lyα emission line can be used as a reliable star formation diagnostic tool.
Methods. We used a sample of 24 Lyα emitters at z ~ 0.3 with an optical spectroscopic follow-up to calculate the Lyα escape fraction and its dependence upon different physical properties. We also examined the reliability of Lyα as a SFR indicator. We combined these observations with a compilation of Lyα emitters selected at z = 0−0.3 from the literature to assemble a larger sample.
Results. We confirm that the Lyα escape fraction clearly depends on the dust extinction following the relation fesc(Lyα) = CLyα × 10−0.4 E(B−V) kLyα where kLyα ~ 6.67 and CLyα = 0.22. However, the correlation does not follow the expected curve for a simple dust attenuation. A higher attenuation can be attributed to a scattering process, while fesc(Lyα) values that are clearly above the continuum extinction curve can be the result of various mechanisms that can lead to an enhancement of the Lyα output. We also observe that the strength of Lyα and the escape fraction appear unrelated to the galaxy metallicity. Regarding the reliability of Lyα as a SFR indicator, we show that the deviation of SFR(Lyα) from the true SFR (as traced by the UV continuum) is a function of the observed SFR(UV), which can be seen as the decrease in fesc(Lyα) with increasing UV luminosity. Moreover, we observe redshift dependence of this relationship, revealing the underlying evolution of fesc(Lyα) with redshift.
Key words: galaxies: starburst / ultraviolet: galaxies / galaxies: star formation
Figure 13 and Tables 1 and 2 are available in electronic form at http://www.aanda.org
Reduced spectra are only available at the CDS via anonymous ftp to cdsarc.u-strasbg.fr (18.104.22.168) or via http://cdsarc.u-strasbg.fr/viz-bin/qcat?J/A+A/561/A89
© ESO, 2014