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Escape of about five per cent of Lyman-alpha photons from high-redshift star-forming galaxies
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Astronomy. Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, The Oskar Klein Centre for Cosmo Particle Physics (OKC).
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2010 (English)In: Nature, ISSN 0028-0836, Vol. 464, no 7288, 562-565 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The Lyman-alpha (Ly alpha) emission line is the primary observational signature of star-forming galaxies at the highest redshifts(1), and has enabled the compilation of large samples of galaxies with which to study cosmic evolution(2-5). The resonant nature of the line, however, means that Ly alpha photons scatter in the neutral interstellar medium of their host galaxies, and their sensitivity to absorption by interstellar dust may therefore be greatly enhanced. This implies that the Ly alpha luminosity may be significantly reduced, or even completely suppressed. Hitherto, no unbiased empirical test of the escaping fraction (f(esc)) of Ly alpha photons has been performed at high redshifts. Here we report that the average f(esc) from star-forming galaxies at redshift z=2.2 is just 5 per cent by performing a blind narrowband survey in Ly alpha and H alpha. This implies that numerous conclusions based on Ly alpha-selected samples will require upwards revision by an order of magnitude and we provide a benchmark for this revision. We demonstrate that almost 90 per cent of star-forming galaxies emit insufficient Ly alpha to be detected by standard selection criteria(2-5). Both samples show an anti-correlation of f(esc) with dust content, and we show that Ly alpha- and H alpha-selection recovers populations that differ substantially in dust content and f(esc).

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2010. Vol. 464, no 7288, 562-565 p.
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Natural Sciences
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-50310DOI: 10.1038/nature08881ISI: 000275974200041OAI: diva2:380779
authorCount :10Available from: 2010-12-22 Created: 2010-12-22 Last updated: 2011-05-09Bibliographically approved

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Östlin, GöranMelinder, Jens
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Department of AstronomyThe Oskar Klein Centre for Cosmo Particle Physics (OKC)
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