JWST and ALMA Imaging of Dust-obscured, Massive Substructures in a Typical z ∼ 3 Star-forming Disk Galaxy

Wiphu Rujopakarn, Christina C. Williams, Emanuele Daddi, Malte Schramm, Fengwu Sun, Stacey Alberts, George H. Rieke, Qing Hua Tan, Sandro Tacchella, Mauro Giavalisco, John D. Silverman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


We present an identification of dust-attenuated star-forming galactic-disk substructures in a typical star-forming galaxy (SFG), UDF2, at z = 2.696. To date, substructures containing significant buildup of stellar mass and actively forming stars have yet to be found in typical (i.e., main-sequence) SFGs at z > 2. This is due to the strong dust attenuation common in massive galaxies at the epoch and the scarcity of high-resolution, high-sensitivity extinction-independent imaging. To search for disk substructures, we subtracted the central stellar-mass disk from the JWST/NIRCam rest-frame 1.2 μm image (0.″13 resolution) and subtracted, in the visibility plane, the central starburst disk from Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) rest-frame 240 μm observations (0.″03 resolution). The residual images revealed substructures at rest-frame 1.2 μm colocated with those found at rest-frame 240 μm, ≃2 kpc away from the galactic center. The largest substructure contains ≃20% of the total stellar mass and ≃5% of the total star formation rate of the galaxy. While UDF2 exhibits a kinematically ordered velocity field of molecular gas consistent with a secularly evolving disk, more sensitive observations are required to characterize the nature and the origin of this substructure (spiral arms, minor merger, or other types of disk instabilities). UDF2 resides in an overdense region (N ≥ 4 massive galaxies within 70 kpc projected distance at z = 2.690-2.697) and the substructures may be associated with interaction-induced instabilities. Importantly, a statistical sample of such substructures identified with JWST and ALMA could play a key role in bridging the gap between the bulge-forming starburst and the rest of the galaxy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberL8
JournalAstrophysical Journal Letters
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 1 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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