Spectroscopic detection of C IV λ1548 in a galaxy at z = 7.045: Implications for the ionizing spectra of reionization-era galaxies

Daniel P. Stark, Gregory Walth, Stéphane Charlot, Benjamin Clément, Anna Feltre, Julia Gutkin, Johan Richard, Ramesh Mainali, Brant Robertson, Brian Siana, Mengtao Tang, Matthew Schenker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

153 Scopus citations


We present Keck/MOSFIRE observations of UV metal emission lines in four bright (H = 23.9-25.4) gravitationally lensed z ≃ 6-8 galaxies behind the cluster Abell 1703. The spectrum of A1703-zd6, a highly magnified star-forming galaxy with a Lyα redshift of z = 7.045, reveals a confident detection of the nebular C IV λ1548 emission line (unresolved with full width at half-maximum <125 km s-1). UV metal emission lines are not detected in the three other galaxies. At z ≃ 2-3, nebular C IV emission is observed in just 1 per cent of UV-selected galaxies. The presence of strong C IV emission in one of the small sample of galaxies targeted in this paper may indicate that hard ionizing spectra are more common at z ≃ 7. The total estimated rest-frame equivalent width of the C IV doublet and C IV/Lyα flux ratio are comparable to measurements of narrow-lined AGNs. Photoionization models show that the nebular C IV line can also be reproduced by a young stellar population, with very hot metal-poor stars dominating the photon flux responsible for triply ionizing carbon. Regardless of the origin of the C IV, we show that the ionizing spectrum of A1703-zd6 is different from that of typical galaxies at z ≃ 2, producing more H ionizing photons per unit 1500 Å luminosity (log(ζion/erg-1 Hz) = 25.68) and a larger flux density at 30-50 eV. If such extreme radiation fields are typical in UV-selected systems at z ≳ 7, it would indicate that reionization-era galaxies are more efficient ionizing agents than previously thought. Alternatively, we suggest that the small sample of Lyα emitters at z ≳ 7 may trace a rare population with intense radiation fields capable of ionizing their surrounding hydrogen distribution. Additional constraints on high-ionization emission lines in galaxies with and without Lyα detections will help clarify whether hard ionizing spectra are common in the reionization era.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1393-1403
Number of pages11
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 1 2015


  • Cosmology: observations
  • Galaxies: evolution
  • Galaxies: formation
  • Galaxies: high-redshift

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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