Method for improving line flux and redshift measurements with narrowband filters
Dark Cosmology Centre, Niels Bohr Institute, University of
Juliane Maries Vej 30,
2 European Southern Observatory, Karl-Schwarzschild-Straße 2, 85748 Garching bei München, Germany
3 Aix-Marseille Université, CNRS, LAM (Laboratoire d’Astrophysique de Marseille) UMR 7326, 13388 Marseille, France
Received: 22 April 2015
Accepted: 15 February 2016
Context. High redshift star-forming galaxies are discovered routinely because of a flux excess in narrowband filters caused by an emission line. In most cases, the width of such filters is broader than typical line widths, and the throughput of the filters varies substantially within the bandpass. This leads to substantial uncertainties in redshifts and fluxes that are derived from the observations with one specific narrowband filter.
Aims. The uncertainty in measured line parameters can be sharply reduced by using repeated observations of the same target field with filters that have overlapping passbands but differ slightly in central wavelength or wavelength dependence of the effective filter curve. Such data are routinely collected with some large field imaging cameras that use multiple detectors and a separate filter for each of the detectors. An example is the European Southern Observatory’s VISTA InfraRed CAMera (VIRCAM).
Methods. We developed a method of determining more accurate redshift and line flux estimates from the ratio of apparent fluxes measured from observations in different narrowband filters and several matching broadband filters. A parameterized model of the line and continuum flux is used to predict the flux ratios as a function of redshift based on the known filter curves. These model predictions are then used to determine the most likely redshift and line flux.
Results. We tested the obtainable quality of parameter estimation for the example of Hα in the VIRCAM NB118 filters both on simulated and actual observations where the latter were based on the UltraVISTA DR2 data set. We combined the narrowband data with deep broadband data in Y, J, and H. We find that with this method, the errors in the measured lines fluxes can be reduced up to almost an order of magnitude.
Conclusions. We conclude that existing narrowband data can be used to derive accurate line fluxes if the observations include images taken with sufficiently different filter curves. For the UltraVISTA survey, the best-suited narrowband filter combinations allow an accuracy in wavelength of better than 1 nm and in flux of better than 15% at any redshift within the bandpass of the filters. In contrast, analyzing the data without exploiting the difference in filter curves leads to an uncertainty in wavelength of 10 nm and up to an order of magnitude errors in line flux estimates.
Key words: methods: observational / techniques: photometric / galaxies: photometry / galaxies: distances and redshifts / galaxies: star formation / galaxies: high-redshift
© ESO, 2016