A physical model of lyα emitters

Vithal Tilvi, Sangeeta Malhotra, James E. Rhoads, Evan Scannapieco, Robert J. Thacker, Ilian T. Iliev, Garrelt Mellema

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


We present a simple physical model for populating dark matter halos with Lyα emitters (LAEs) and predict the properties of LAEs at z 3-7. The central tenet of this model is that the Lyα luminosity is proportional to the star formation rate (SFR) which is directly related to the halo mass accretion rate. The only free parameter in our model is then the star formation efficiency (SFE). An efficiency of 2.5% provides the best fit to the Lyα luminosity function (LF) at redshift z = 3.1, and we use this SFE to construct Lyα LFs at other redshifts. Our model reproduces the Lyα LFs, stellar ages, SFR 1-10 M yr-1, stellar masses 107to10 8 M , and the clustering properties of LAEs at z 3-7. We find the spatial correlation lengths ro 3-6 h -1 Mpc, in agreement with the observations. Finally, we estimate the field-to-field variation 30% for current volume and flux limited surveys, again consistent with observations. Our results suggest that the star formation, and hence Lyα emission in LAEs can be powered by accretion of new material. Relating the accreted mass, rather than the total mass, to the Lyα luminosity of LAEs naturally gives rise to their duty cycle.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)724-732
Number of pages9
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2009


  • Accretion, accretion disks
  • Dark matter
  • Galaxies: evolution
  • Galaxies: halos
  • Galaxies: high-redshift
  • Galaxies: luminosity function, mass function

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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