Star formation history in the nicmos northern Hubble Deep Field

Rodger I. Thompson, Ray J. Weymann, Lisa J. Storrie-Lombardi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


We present the results of an extensive analysis of the star formation rates determined from the NICMOS deep images of the northern Hubble Deep Field. We use SED template fitting photometric techniques to determine both the redshift and the extinction for each galaxy in our field. Measurement of the individual extinctions provides a correction for star formation hidden by dust obscuration. We determine star formation rates for each galaxy based on the 1500 Å UV flux and add the rates in redshift bins of width 1.0 centered on integer redshift values. We find a rise in the star formation rate from a redshift of 1 to 2 then a falloff from a redshift of 2 to 3. However, within the formal limits of the error bars this could also be interpreted as a constant star formation rate from a redshift of 1 to 3. The star formation rate from a redshift of 3 to 5 is roughly constant followed by a possible drop in the rate at a redshift of 6. The measured star formation rate at a redshift of 6 is approximately equal to the present day star formation rate determined in other work. The high star formation rate measured at a redshift of 2 is due to the presence of two possible ULIRGs in the field. If real, this represents a much higher density of ULIRGs than measured locally. We also develop a new method to correct for faint galaxies or faint parts of galaxies missed by our sensitivity limit, based on the assumption that the star formation intensity distribution function is independent of redshift. We measure the 1.6 μm surface brightness due to discrete sources and predict the 850 μm brightness of all of our galaxies based on the determined extinction. We find that the far-infrared fluxes predicted in this manner are consistent with the lack of detections of 850 μim sources in the deep NICMOS HDF, the measured 850 μm sky brightness due to discrete sources and the ratio of optical-UV sky brightness to far-infrared sky brightness. From this we infer that we are observing a population of sources that contributes significantly to the total star formation rate and these sources are not overwhelmed by the contribution from sources such as the extremely superluminous galaxies represented by the SCUBA detections. We have estimated the errors in the star formation rate due to a variety of sources including photometric errors, the near-degeneracy between reddening and intrinsic spectral energy distribution as well as the effects of sampling errors and large-scale structure. We have tried throughout to give as realistic and conservative an estimate of the errors in our analysis as possible.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)694-718
Number of pages25
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2 PART 1
StatePublished - Jan 10 2001


  • Cosmology: observations
  • Galaxies: evolution
  • Galaxies: fundamental parameters
  • Galaxies: starburst
  • Stars: formation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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