A molecular line scan in the hubble deep field north: Constraints on the co luminosity function and the cosmic H2 density

F. Walter, R. Decarli, M. Sargent, C. Carilli, M. Dickinson, D. Riechers, R. Ellis, D. Stark, B. Weiner, M. Aravena, E. Bell, F. Bertoldi, P. Cox, E. Da Cunha, E. Daddi, D. Downes, L. Lentati, R. Maiolino, K. M. Menten, R. NeriH. W. Rix, A. Weiss

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

93 Scopus citations


We present direct constraints on the CO luminosity function at high redshift and the resulting cosmic evolution of the molecular gas density, ρH2 (z), based on a blind molecular line scan in the Hubble Deep Field North (HDF-N) using the IRAM Plateau de Bure Interferometer. Our line scan of the entire 3 mm window (79-115 GHz) covers a cosmic volume of 7000 Mpc3, and redshift rangesz < 0.45, 1.01 < z < 1.89 andz > 2.We use the rich multiwavelength and spectroscopic database of the HDF-N to derive some of the best constraints on CO luminosities in high redshift galaxies to date. We combine the blind CO detections in our molecular line scan (presented in a companion paper) with stacked CO limits from galaxies with available spectroscopic redshifts (slit or mask spectroscopy from Keck and grism spectroscopy from the Hubble Space Telescope) to give first blind constraints on high-z CO luminosity functions and the cosmic evolution of the H2 mass density ρH2 (z) out to redshifts z 3. A comparison to empirical predictions of ρH2 (z) shows that the securely detected sources in our molecular line scan already provide significant contributions to the predicted ρH2 (z) in the redshift bins (z) 1.5 and (z) 2.7. Accounting for galaxies with CO luminosities that are not probed by our observations results in cosmic molecular gas densities ρH2 (z) that are higher than current predictions.We note, however, that the current uncertainties (in particular the luminosity limits, number of detections, as well as cosmic volume probed) are significant, a situation that is about to change with the emerging ALMA observatory.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number79
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 20 2014


  • Cosmology: observations
  • Galaxies: evolution
  • Galaxies: formation
  • Infrared: galaxies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


Dive into the research topics of 'A molecular line scan in the hubble deep field north: Constraints on the co luminosity function and the cosmic H2 density'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this