Tracing Ly α and LyC Escape in Galaxies with Mg ii Emission

Xinfeng Xu, Alaina Henry, Timothy Heckman, John Chisholm, Gábor Worseck, Max Gronke, Anne Jaskot, Stephan R. McCandliss, Sophia R. Flury, Mauro Giavalisco, Zhiyuan Ji, Ricardo O. Amorín, Danielle A. Berg, Sanchayeeta Borthakur, Nicolas Bouche, Cody Carr, Dawn K. Erb, Harry Ferguson, Thibault Garel, Matthew HayesKirill Makan, Rui Marques-Chaves, Michael Rutkowski, Göran Östlin, Marc Rafelski, Alberto Saldana-Lopez, Claudia Scarlata, Daniel Schaerer, Maxime Trebitsch, Christy Tremonti, Anne Verhamme, Bingjie Wang

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15 Scopus citations


Star-forming galaxies are considered the likeliest source of the H i ionizing Lyman continuum (LyC) photons that reionized the intergalactic medium at high redshifts. However, above z 3 6, the neutral intergalactic medium prevents direct observations of LyC. Therefore, recent years have seen the development of indirect indicators for LyC that can be calibrated at lower redshifts and applied in the epoch of reionization. Emission from the Mg ii λλ2796, 2803 doublet has been proposed as a promising LyC proxy. In this paper, we present new Hubble Space Telescope/Cosmic Origins Spectrograph observations for eight LyC emitter candidates, selected to have strong Mg ii emission lines. We securely detect LyC emission in 50% (4/8) of the galaxies with 2σ significance. This high detection rate suggests that strong Mg ii emitters might be more likely to leak LyC than similar galaxies without strong Mg ii. Using photoionization models, we constrain the escape fraction of Mg ii as ∼15%-60%. We confirm that the escape fraction of Mg ii correlates tightly with that of Lyα, which we interpret as an indication that the escape fraction of both species is controlled by resonant scattering in the same low column density gas. Furthermore, we show that the combination of the Mg ii emission and dust attenuation can be used to estimate the escape fraction of LyC statistically. These findings confirm that Mg ii emission can be adopted to estimate the escape fraction of Lyα and LyC in local star-forming galaxies and may serve as a useful indirect indicator at the epoch of reionization.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number202
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jul 1 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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