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2013ApJ...766...91J - Astrophys. J., 766, 91 (2013/April-1)

The origin and optical depth of ionizing radiation in the "Green Pea" galaxies.


Abstract (from CDS):

Although Lyman-continuum (LyC) radiation from star-forming galaxies likely drove the reionization of the universe, observations of star-forming galaxies at low redshift generally indicate low LyC escape fractions. However, the extreme [O III]/[O II] ratios of the z = 0.1-0.3 Green Pea galaxies may be due to high escape fractions of ionizing radiation. To analyze the LyC optical depths and ionizing sources of these rare, compact starbursts, we compare nebular photoionization and stellar population models with observed emission lines in the Peas' Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) spectra. We focus on the six most extreme Green Peas, the galaxies with the highest [O III]/[O II] ratios and the best candidates for escaping ionizing radiation. The Balmer line equivalent widths and He I λ3819 emission in the extreme Peas support young ages of 3-5 Myr, and He II λ4686 emission in five extreme Peas signals the presence of hard ionizing sources. Ionization by active galactic nuclei or high-mass X-ray binaries is inconsistent with the Peas' line ratios and ages. Although stacked spectra reveal no Wolf-Rayet (WR) features, we tentatively detect WR features in the SDSS spectra of three extreme Peas. Based on the Peas' ages and line ratios, we find that WR stars, chemically homogeneous O stars, or shocks could produce the observed He II emission. If hot stars are responsible, then the Peas' optical depths are ambiguous. However, accounting for emission from shocks lowers the inferred optical depth and suggests that the Peas may be optically thin. The Peas' ages likely optimize the escape of LyC radiation; they are old enough for supernovae and stellar winds to reshape the interstellar medium, but young enough to possess large numbers of UV-luminous O or WR stars.

Abstract Copyright:

Journal keyword(s): galaxies: evolution - galaxies: starburst - intergalactic medium - ISM: general - radiative transfer - stars: massive

Simbad objects: 15

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