The MOSDEF survey: [SIII] as a new probe of evolving interstellar medium conditions

Ryan L. Sanders, Tucker Jones, Alice E. Shapley, Naveen A. Reddy, Mariska Kriek, Alison L. Coil, Brian Siana, Bahram Mobasher, Irene Shivaei, Sedona H. Price, William R. Freeman, Mojegan Azadi, Gene C.K. Leung, Tara Fetherolf, Tom O. Zick, Laura de Groot, Guillermo Barro, Francesca M. Fornasini

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5 Scopus citations


We present measurements of [S III]λλ9069,9531 for a sample of z ∼ 1.5 star-forming galaxies, the first representative sample with measurements of these lines at z ≿ 0.1. We employ the line ratio S32 ≡ [S III]λλ9069,9531/[S II]λλ6716,6731 as a novel probe of evolving interstellar medium (ISM) conditions. Since this ratio includes the low-ionization line [S II], it is crucial that the effects of diffuse ionized gas (DIG) on emission-line ratios be accounted for in z ∼ 0 galaxy spectra, or else that comparisons be made to samples of local H II regions in which DIG emission is not present. We find that S32 decreases with increasing stellar mass at both z ∼ 1.5 and z ∼ 0, but with a shallow slope suggesting S32 has a weak dependence on metallicity, in contrast with [O III]/[O II] that displays a strong metallicity dependence. As a result, S32 only mildly evolves with redshift at fixed stellar mass. The z ∼ 1.5 sample is systematically offset toward lower S32 and higher [S II]/Hα at fixed [O III]/Hβ relative to z = 0 H II regions. We find that such trends can be explained by a scenario in which the ionizing spectrum is harder at fixed O/H with increasing redshift, but are inconsistent with an increase in ionization parameter at fixed O/H. This analysis demonstrates the advantages of expanding beyond the strongest rest-optical lines for evolutionary studies, and the particular utility of [S III] for characterizing evolving ISM conditions and stellar compositions. These measurements provide a basis for estimating [S III] line strengths for high-redshift galaxies, a line that the James Webb Space Telescope will measure out to z ∼ 5.5.

Original languageEnglish
JournalAstrophysical Journal Letters
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2020

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© 2019. The American Astronomical Society. All rights reserved.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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