A dusty star-forming galaxy at z = 6 revealed by strong gravitational lensing

Zavala, Jorge A.; Montaña, Alfredo; Hughes, David H.; Yun, Min S.; Ivison, R. J.; Valiante, Elisabetta; Wilner, David; Spilker, Justin; Aretxaga, Itziar; Eales, Stephen; Avila-Reese, Vladimir; Chávez, Miguel; Cooray, Asantha; Dannerbauer, Helmut; Dunlop, James S.; Dunne, Loretta; Gómez-Ruiz, Arturo I.; Michałowski, Michał J.; Narayanan, Gopal; Nayyeri, Hooshang; Oteo, Ivan; Rosa González, Daniel; Sánchez-Argüelles, David; Schloerb, F. Peter; Serjeant, Stephen; Smith, Matthew W. L.; Terlevich, Elena; Vega, Olga; Villalba, Alan; van der Werf, Paul; Wilson, Grant W. and Zeballos, Milagros (2018). A dusty star-forming galaxy at z = 6 revealed by strong gravitational lensing. Nature Astronomy, 2(1) pp. 56–62.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41550-017-0297-8


Since their discovery, submillimetre-selected galaxies have revolutionized the field of galaxy formation and evolution. From the hundreds of square degrees mapped at submillimetre wavelengths, only a handful of sources have been confirmed to lie at z > 5 and only two at z ≥ 6. All of these submillimetre galaxies are rare examples of extreme starburst galaxies with star formation rates of ≳1,000 M yr−1 and therefore are not representative of the general population of dusty star-forming galaxies. Consequently, our understanding of the nature of these sources, at the earliest epochs, is still incomplete. Here, we report the spectroscopic identification of a gravitationally amplified (μ = 9.3 ± 1.0) dusty star-forming galaxy at z = 6.027. After correcting for gravitational lensing, we derive an intrinsic less-extreme star formation rate of 380 ± 50 M yr−1 for this source and find that its gas and dust properties are similar to those measured for local ultra luminous infrared galaxies, extending the local trends to a poorly explored territory in the early Universe. The star-formation efficiency of this galaxy is similar to those measured in its local analogues, despite a ~12 Gyr difference in cosmic time.

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