The VANDELS survey: A measurement of the average Lyman-continuum escape fraction of star-forming galaxies at z = 3.5

R. Begley, F. Cullen, R. J. McLure, J. S. Dunlop, A. Hall, A. C. Carnall, M. L. Hamadouche, D. J. McLeod, R. Amorín, A. Calabrò, A. Fontana, J. P.U. Fynbo, L. Guaita, N. P. Hathi, P. Hibon, Z. Ji, M. Llerena, L. Pentericci, A. Saldana-Lopez, D. SchaererM. Talia, E. Vanzella, G. Zamorani

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

We present a study designed to measure the average Lyman-continuum escape fraction (〈fesc〉) of star-forming galaxies at z ~3.5. We assemble a sample of 148 galaxies from the VANDELS spectroscopic survey at 3.35 ≤ zspec ≤ 3.95, selected to minimize line-of-sight contamination of their photometry. For this sample, we use ultra-deep, ground-based, U-band imaging and Hubble Space Telescope V-band imaging to robustly measure the distribution of Robs, =(LLyC/LUV)obs. We then model the Robs distribution as a function of 〈fesc〉, carefully accounting for attenuation by dust, the intergalactic medium and the circumgalactic medium. A maximum likelihood fit to the Robs distribution returns a best-fitting value of 〈 fesc〉 =0.07+0.02-0.02, a result confirmed using an alternative Bayesian inference technique (both techniques exclude 〈fesc〉 = 0.0 at >3σ). By splitting our sample in two, we find evidence that 〈fesc〉 is positively correlated with Ly α equivalent width (Wλ(Ly α)), with high and low Wλ(Lyα) subsamples returning values of 〈 fesc〉 =0.12+0.06-0.04 and 〈 fesc〉 =0.02+0.02-0.01, respectively. In contrast, we find evidence that 〈fesc〉 is anticorrelated with intrinsic UV luminosity and UV dust attenuation; with low UV luminosity and dust attenuation subsamples both returning best fits in the range 0.10 ≤ 〈fesc〉 ≤ 0.22. We do not find a clear correlation between fesc and galaxy stellar mass, suggesting stellar mass is not a primary indicator of fesc. Although larger samples are needed to further explore these trends, our results suggest that it is entirely plausible that the low dust, low-metallicity galaxies found at z ≥ 6 will display the 〈fesc〉 ≥ 0.1 required to drive reionization.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3510-3525
Number of pages16
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Volume513
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2022
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • galaxies: fundamental parameters
  • galaxies: high-redshift
  • intergalactic medium

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science

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