The Diversity of Diffuse Lyα Nebulae around Star-forming Galaxies at High Redshift

Rui Xue, Kyoung Soo Lee, Arjun Dey, Naveen Reddy, Sungryong Hong, Moire K.M. Prescott, Hanae Inami, Buell T. Jannuzi, Anthony H. Gonzalez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


We report the detection of diffuse Lyα emission, or Lyα halos (LAHs), around star-forming galaxies at z ≈ 3.78 and 2.66 in the NOAO Deep Wide-Field Survey Boötes field. Our samples consist of a total of ∼1400 galaxies, within two separate regions containing spectroscopically confirmed galaxy overdensities. They provide a unique opportunity to investigate how the LAH characteristics vary with host galaxy large-scale environment and physical properties. We stack Lyα images of different samples defined by these properties and measure their median LAH sizes by decomposing the stacked Lyα radial profile into a compact galaxy-like and an extended halo-like component. We find that the exponential scale-length of LAHs depends on UV continuum and Lyα luminosities, but not on Lyα equivalent widths or galaxy overdensity parameters. The full samples, which are dominated by low UV-continuum luminosity Lyα emitters (M UV -21), exhibit LAH sizes of 5-6 kpc. However, the most UV- or Lyα-luminous galaxies have more extended halos with scale-lengths of 7-9 kpc. The stacked Lyα radial profiles decline more steeply than recent theoretical predictions that include the contributions from gravitational cooling of infalling gas and from low-level star formation in satellites. However, the LAH extent matches what one would expect for photons produced in the galaxy and then resonantly scattered by gas in an outflowing envelope. The observed trends of LAH sizes with host galaxy properties suggest that the physical conditions of the circumgalactic medium (covering fraction, H i column density, and outflow velocity) change with halo mass and/or star formation rates.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number172
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 10 2017


  • cosmology: observations
  • galaxies: clusters: general
  • galaxies: distances and redshifts
  • galaxies: evolution
  • galaxies: formation
  • galaxies: high-redshift

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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