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Physics and Astronomy


One of the most challenging aspects of studying galaxies in the z  7 universe is the infrequent confirmation of their redshifts through spectroscopy, a phenomenon thought to occur from the increasing opacity of the intergalactic medium to Lyα photons at z > 6.5. The resulting redshift uncertainties inhibit the efficient search for [C II] in z ~ 7 galaxies with sub-millimeter instruments such as ALMA, given their limited scan speed for faint lines. One means by which to improve the precision of the inferred redshifts is to exploit the potential impact of strong nebular emission lines on the colors of z ∼ 4 – 8 galaxies as observed by Spitzer/IRAC. At z ~ 6.8, galaxies exhibit IRAC colors as blue as[3.6] [4.5] 1 - ~- , likely due to the contribution of [O III]+Hβ to the 3.6 μm flux combined with the absence of line contamination in the 4.5 μm band. In this paper we explore the use of extremely blue [3.6] [4.5] - colors to identify galaxies in the narrow redshift window z ~ 6.6 – 6.9. When combined with an I-dropout criterion, we demonstrate that we can plausibly select a relatively clean sample of z ~ 6.8 galaxies. Through a systematic application of this selection technique to our catalogs from all five CANDELS fields, we identify 20 probable z ~ 6.6 – 6.9 galaxies. We estimate that our criteria select the ∼50% strongest line emitters at z ~ 6.8 and from the IRAC colors we estimate a typical [O III]+Hb rest-frame equivalent width of 1085 Å for this sample. The small redshift uncertainties on our sample make it particularly well suited for follow-up studies with facilities such as ALMA.


© 2015. The American Astronomical Society. All rights reserved.

Original Publication Information

Smit, Renske, et al. "High-Precision Photometric Redshifts from Spitzer/IRAC: Extreme [3.6] - [4.5] Colors Identify Galaxies in the Redshift Range z ~ 6.6 - 6.9." 2015. The Astrophysical Journal 801(2): 12 pp.