Effects of dust geometry in Lyα galaxies at z = 4.4

Steven L. Finkelstein, James E. Rhoads, Sangeeta Malhotra, Norman Grogin, Junxian Wang

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93 Scopus citations


Equivalent widths (EWs) observed in high-redshift Lyα galaxies could be stronger than the EW intrinsic to the stellar population if dust is present residing in clumps in the interstellar medium (ISM). In this scenario, continuum photons could be extinguished, while the Lyα photons would be resonantly scattered by the clumps, eventually escaping the galaxy. We investigate this radiative transfer scenario with a new sample of six Lyα galaxy candidates in the GOODS CDF-S, selected at z = 4.4 with ground-based narrowband imaging obtained at CTIO. Grism spectra from the HST PEARS survey confirm that three objects are at z = 4.4, and that another object contains an active galactic nucleus (AGN). If we assume the other five (non-AGN) objects are at z = 4.4, they have rest-frame EWs from 47 to 190 Å. We present results of stellar population studies of these objects, constraining their rest-frame UV with HST and their rest-frame optical with Spitzer. Out of the four objects which we analyzed, three objects were best fit to contain stellar populations with ages on the order of 1 Myr and stellar masses from 3 × 108 to 1 × 109 M, with dust in the amount of A 1200 = 0.9-1.8 residing in a quasi-homogeneous distribution. However, one object (with a rest EW ∼ 150 Å) was best fit by an 800 Myr, 6.6 × 109 M stellar population with a smaller amount of dust A1200 = 0.4) attenuating the continuum only. In this object, the EW was enhanced ∼50% due to this dust. This suggests that large EW Lyα galaxies are a diverse population. Preferential extinction of the continuum in a clumpy ISM deserves further investigation as a possible cause of the overabundance of large-EW objects that have been seen in narrowband surveys in recent years.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)655-668
Number of pages14
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 10 2008


  • Galaxies: evolution
  • Galaxies: fundamental parameters
  • Galaxies: high-redshift galaxies: ISM

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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