Rest-frame UV spectroscopy of extreme [O iii] emitters at 1.3 < z < 3.7: Toward a high-redshift UV reference sample for JWST

Mengtao Tang, Daniel P. Stark, Jacopo Chevallard, Stéphane Charlot, Ryan Endsley, Enrico Congiu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Deep spectroscopy of galaxies in the reionization era has revealed intense C iii] and C iv line emission (equivalent width, EW >15-20 Å). In order to interpret the nebular emission emerging at z > 6, we have begun targeting rest-frame ultraviolet (UV) emission lines in galaxies with large specific star formation rates (sSFRs) at 1.3 < z < 3.7. We find that C iii] reaches the EWs seen at z > 6 only in large sSFR galaxies with [O iii]+Hβ EW >1500 Å. In contrast to previous studies, we find that many galaxies with intense [O iii] have weak C iii] emission (EW = 5-8 Å), suggesting that the radiation field associated with young stellar populations is not sufficient to power strong C iii]. Photoionization models demonstrate that the spread in C iii] among systems with large sSFRs ([O iii]+Hβ EW >1500 Å) is driven by variations in metallicity, a result of the extreme sensitivity of C iii] to electron temperature. We find that the strong C iii] emission seen at z > 6 (EW >15 Å) requires metal-poor gas (≃ 0.1 Z⊙), whereas the weaker C iii] emission in our sample tends to be found at moderate metallicities (≃ 0.3 Z⊙). The luminosity distribution of the C iii] emitters in our z ≃ 1-3 sample presents a consistent picture, with stronger emission generally linked to low-luminosity systems (MUV > -19.5) where low metallicities are more likely. We quantify the fraction of strong C iii] and C iv emitters at z ≃ 1-3, providing a baseline for comparison against z > 6 samples. We suggest that the first UV line detections at z > 6 can be explained if a significant fraction of the early galaxy population is found at large sSFR (>200 Gyr-1) and low metallicity (< 0.1 Z⊙).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3238-3257
Number of pages20
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2021


  • cosmology: Observations
  • galaxies: Evolution
  • galaxies: Formation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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