Observations Of The Gas Reservoir Around A Star-Forming Galaxy In The Early Universe

We present a high signal-to-noise spectrum of a bright galaxy at z = 4.9 in 14 hr of integration on VLT FORS2. This galaxy is extremely bright, i(850) = 23.10 +/- 0.01, and is strongly lensed by the foreground massive galaxy cluster A1689 (z = 0.18). Stellar continuum is seen longward of the Ly alpha emission line at similar to 7100 angstrom, while intergalactic H I produces strong absorption shortward of Ly alpha. Two transmission spikes at similar to 6800 and similar to 7040 are also visible, along with other structures at shorter wavelengths. Although this star-forming is galaxy fainter angstrom than a QSO, the absence of a strong central ultraviolet flux source in it enables a measurement of the H I flux transmission in the intergalactic medium (IGM) in the vicinity of a high-redshift object. We find that the effective H I optical depth of the IGM is remarkably high within a large 14 Mpc (physical) region surrounding the galaxy compared to that seen toward QSOs at similar redshifts. Evidently, this high-redshift galaxy is located in a region of space where the amount of H I is much larger than that seen at similar epochs in the diffuse IGM. We argue that observations of high-redshift galaxies like this one provide unique insights into the nascent stages of baryonic large-scale structures that evolve into the filamentary cosmic web of galaxies and clusters of galaxies observed in the current universe.

Published in:
Astrophysical Journal Letters, 685, L5-L8

 Record created 2010-11-30, last modified 2018-03-17

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