The MOSDEF survey: Neon as a probe of ISM physical conditions at high redshift

Moon Seong Jeong, Alice E. Shapley, Ryan L. Sanders, Jordan N. Runco, Michael W. Topping, Naveen A. Reddy, Mariska Kriek, Alison L. Coil, Bahram Mobasher, Brian Siana, Irene Shivaei, William R. Freeman, Mojegan Azadi, Sedona H. Price, Gene C.K. Leung, Tara Fetherolf, Laura de Groot, Tom Zick, Francesca M. Fornasini, Guillermo Barro

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations

Abstract

We present results on the properties of neon emission in z ∼ 2 star-forming galaxies drawn from the MOSFIRE Deep Evolution Field (MOSDEF) survey. Doubly ionized neon ([Ne III]λ3869) is detected at 3σ in 61 galaxies, representing ∼25% of the MOSDEF sample with Hα, Hβ, and [O III]λ5007 detections at similar redshifts. We consider the neon emission-line properties of both individual galaxies with [Ne III]λ3869 detections and composite z ∼ 2 spectra binned by stellar mass. With no requirement of [Ne III]λ3869 detection, the latter provide a more representative picture of neon emission-line properties in the MOSDEF sample. The [Ne III]λ3869/[O II]λ3727 ratio (Ne3O2) is anticorrelated with stellar mass in z ∼ 2 galaxies, as expected based on the mass–metallicity relation. It is also positively correlated with the [O III]λ5007/[O II]λ3727 ratio (O32), but z ∼ 2 line ratios are offset toward higher Ne3O2 at fixed O32, compared with both local star-forming galaxies and individual H II regions. Despite the offset toward higher Ne3O2 at fixed O32 at z ∼ 2, biases in inferred Ne3O2-based metallicity are small. Accordingly, Ne3O2 may serve as an important metallicity indicator deep into the reionization epoch. Analyzing additional rest-optical line ratios including [Ne III]λ3869/[O III]λ5007 (Ne3O3) and [O III]λ5007/Hβ (O3Hβ), we conclude that the nebular emission-line ratios of z ∼ 2 star-forming galaxies suggest a harder ionizing spectrum (lower stellar metallicity, i.e., Fe/H) at fixed gas-phase oxygen abundance, compared to systems at z ∼ 0. These new results based on neon lend support to the physical picture painted by oxygen, nitrogen, hydrogen, and sulfur emission of an ionized interstellar medium in high-redshift star-forming galaxies irradiated by chemically young, α-enhanced massive stars.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberL16
JournalAstrophysical Journal Letters
Volume902
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 10 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020. The American Astronomical Society. All rights reserved.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science

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