A JWST/NIRSpec Exploration of the Connection between Ionization Parameter, Electron Density, and Star-formation-rate Surface Density in z = 2.7-6.3 Galaxies

Naveen A. Reddy, Michael W. Topping, Ryan L. Sanders, Alice E. Shapley, Gabriel Brammer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations

Abstract

We examine the factors responsible for the variation in the ionization parameter (U) of high-redshift star-forming galaxies based on medium-resolution JWST/NIRSpec observations obtained by the Cosmic Evolution Early Release Science survey. The sample consists of 48 galaxies with redshifts z spec = 2.7−6.3, which are largely representative of typical galaxies at these redshifts. The [S ii] λ λ6718, 6733 doublet is used to estimate electron densities (n e ), and dust-corrected Hα luminosities are used to compute ionizing photon rates (Q). Using composite spectra of galaxies in bins of [O iii] λ λ4960, 5008/[O ii] λ λ3727, 3730 (O32) as a proxy for U, we determine that galaxies with higher O32 have 〈n e〉 ≃ 500 cm−3 that are ≳5 × larger than that of lower-O32 galaxies. We do not find a significant difference in 〈Q〉 between low- and high-O32 galaxies. Photoionization modeling indicates a large spread in log U of ≈1.5 dex at a fixed Z neb. On the other hand, the data indicate a highly significant correlation between U and star-formation-rate surface density (ΣSFR), which appears to be redshift invariant at z ∼ 1.6−6.3, and possibly up to z ∼ 9.5. We consider several avenues through which metallicity and ΣSFR (or gas density) may influence U, including variations in n e and Q, internal dust extinction of ionizing photons, and the effects of gas density on the volume filling fraction. Based on these considerations, we conclude that gas density may play a more central role than metallicity in modulating U at these redshifts.

Original languageEnglish
Article number167
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Volume952
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 1 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023. The Author(s). Published by the American Astronomical Society.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science

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