Archive for Grism

A Galaxy at Redshift 11.1?

Posted in The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , on March 7, 2016 by telescoper

Back in the office after one Friday off and there’s the inevitable queue at my door and mountain of things that just have to be done immediately. Yeah, right..

Anyway, I couldn’t resit a short blogging break to mention a bit of news that made a splash last week. This is the claim that a galaxy has been observed at a redshift z=11.1 which, if true, would make it the most distant such object ever observed. When I was a lad, z=0.5 was considered high redshift!

If the current standard cosmological model is correct then the lookback time to this redshift is about 13.4 billion years, which means that the galaxy we are seeing formed just 400 million years after the Big Bang. If it is correctly identified then it has to be an object which is forming stars at a prodigious rate. You can find more details in the discovery paper (by Oesch et al.)  here.

I have taken the liberty of extracting the following figure:


The claim is that the model spectrum on the top right is a much better fit to the data obtained using the Hubble Space Telescope Grism spectrograph than the two alternatives at much lower redshift. However, this depends a great deal on having a good model for the significant contamination from other sources. Moreover I’m sure the residuals are non-Gaussian and I’m not therefore convinced that a simple χ2 is the best way to assess the fit. Obviously I’d like to see a proper Bayesian model comparison!

So, as I have been on previous occasions (e.g. here), I remain not entirely convinced. But then I’m a theorist who is always excessively suspicious of data. Any experts out there want to tell me I’m wrong?