A Preview of JWST Metallicity Studies at Cosmic Noon: The First Detection of Auroral [O ii] Emission at High Redshift

Ryan L. Sanders, Alice E. Shapley, Leonardo Clarke, Michael W. Topping, Naveen A. Reddy, Mariska Kriek, Tucker Jones, Daniel P. Stark, Mengtao Tang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations

Abstract

We present ultradeep Keck/MOSFIRE rest-optical spectra of two star-forming galaxies at z = 2.18 in the COSMOS field with bright emission lines, representing more than 20 hr of total integration. The fidelity of these spectra enabled the detection of more than 20 unique emission lines for each galaxy, including the first detection of the auroral [O ii]λλ7322, 7332 lines at high redshift. We use these measurements to calculate the electron temperature in the low-ionization O+ zone of the ionized interstellar medium and derive abundance ratios of O/H, N/H, and N/O using the direct method. The N/O and α/Fe abundance patterns of these galaxies are consistent with rapid formation timescales and ongoing strong starbursts, in accord with their high specific star formation rates. These results demonstrate the feasibility of using auroral [O ii] measurements for accurate metallicity studies at high redshift in a higher-metallicity and lower-excitation regime previously unexplored with the direct method in distant galaxies. These results also highlight the difficulty in obtaining the measurements required for direct-method metallicities from the ground. We emphasize the advantages that the JWST/NIRSpec instrument will bring to high-redshift metallicity studies, where the combination of increased sensitivity and uninterrupted wavelength coverage will yield more than an order of magnitude increase in efficiency for multiplexed auroral-line surveys relative to current ground-based facilities. Consequently, the advent of JWST promises to be the beginning of a new era of precision chemical abundance studies of the early universe at a level of detail rivaling that of local galaxy studies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number75
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Volume943
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 1 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science

Fingerprint

Dive into the research topics of 'A Preview of JWST Metallicity Studies at Cosmic Noon: The First Detection of Auroral [O ii] Emission at High Redshift'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this