Archive for High redshift galaxies

Recalibration of Ultra-High-Redshift Galaxies

Posted in Astrohype, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , , on August 10, 2022 by telescoper

Remember all the recent excitement about the extremely high redshift galaxies (such as this and this; the two examples shown above) “identified” in early-release JWST observations? Well, a new paper on the arXiv by Adams et al using post-launch calibration of the JWST photometry suggests that we should be cautious about the interpretation of these objects. The key message of this study is that the preliminary calibration that has been in widespread use for these studies is wrong by up to 30% and that can have a huge impact on inferred redshifts.

The new study does indeed identify some good candidates for ultra-high-redshift galaxies, but it also casts doubt on many of the previous claims. Here is a table of some previous estimates alongside those using the newly recalibrated data:

You will see that in most – but not all – cases the recalibration results in a substantial lowering of the estimated redshift; one example decreases from z>20 to 0.7! The two candidates mentioned at the start of this post are not included in this table but one should probably reserve judgement on them too.

The conclusive measurements for these objects will however include spectroscopy, and the identification of spectral lines, rather than photometry and model fits to the spectra energy distribution. Only with such data will we really know how many of these sources are actually at very high redshift. As the philosopher Hegel famously remarked

The Owl of Minerva only spreads its wings with the coming of spectroscopy.

Now a Galaxy at z>16?

Posted in The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , , , , on July 26, 2022 by telescoper

It’s less than a week since I posted an item about an object which is possibly the highest redshift galaxy ever observed (with z ~13) and now along comes a paper describing an object that may be of even higher redshift (with z~16.7). The abstract of the new paper – lead author of which is Callum Donnan of the University of Edinburgh – is here:

As with the previous object the redshift of this one is not obtained via spectroscopy (which usually involves the identification of spectral lines) but via fitting a spectral profile to photometric imaging data seen in different bands. The process for this galaxy is illustrated by this diagram from the paper:

There are 7 images along the top showing the source through various broad band filters. Suitably calibrated these can be converted to the flux measurements shown on the graph. Notice the first three images are significantly fainter than the others, so the first three points on the left of the graph are lower.

If this is a galaxy its spectrum is expected to possess a Lyman Break resulting from the fact that radiation of shorter wavelength than the Lyman Limit (912 Å) is absorbed by neutral gas surrounding the regions where stars are formed in the galaxy. In the rest frame of a galaxy this break is the ultraviolet region of the spectrum but because of the cosmological redshift it is observed in the infrared part of the spectrum for very distant galaxies. In this case the best fit is obtained if the break is positioned as shown, with the first three fainter points to the left of the break and the rest to the right. The break itself is straddled by two observational bands. Employing a number of different estimates the authors conclude that the redshift of this galaxy is z=16.7 or thereabouts.

There is no direct evidence for the sharp edge associated with the Lyman Break – and no spectral lines are observed either – so this all depends on the object being correctly identified as a high-redshift galaxy and not some other object at lower redshift. You have to assume this to get a redshift, but then all inferences are based on assumed models so there’s nothing unusual about this approach. The authors discuss other possibilities and conclude that there is no plausible alternative source. Take away the green template spectrum and you just see a spectrum that rises to a peak and falls again. The authors claim that there is no plausible low-redshift source with such a spectrum.

Anyway, here is a composite colour image of the source:

So is this now the earliest galaxy ever observed? And what object will I be asking this question about next week? One thing I can predict is that there are going to be many more such objects in the very near future!