Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

UC San Diego

UC San Diego Previously Published Works bannerUC San Diego

THE MOSDEF SURVEY: ELECTRON DENSITY AND IONIZATION PARAMETER AT z ∼ 2.3* * Based on data obtained at the W.M. Keck Observatory, which is operated as a scientific partnership among the California Institute of Technology, the University of California, and NASA, and was made possible by the generous financial support of the W.M. Keck Foundation.

Published Web Location
No data is associated with this publication.

Using observations from the MOSFIRE Deep Evolution Field survey, we investigate the physical conditions of star-forming regions in z ∼ 2.3 galaxies, specifically the electron density and ionization state. From measurements of the [O ii]λλ3726,3729 and [S ii]λλ6716,6731 doublets, we find a median electron density of ∼250 cm-3 at z ∼ 2.3, an increase of an order of magnitude compared to measurements of galaxies at z ∼ 0. While z ∼ 2.3 galaxies are offset toward significantly higher O32 values relative to local galaxies at fixed stellar mass, we find that the high-redshift sample follows a similar distribution to the low-metallicity tail of the local distribution in the O32 versus R23 and O3N2 diagrams. Based on these results, we propose that z ∼ 2.3 star-forming galaxies have the same ionization parameter as local galaxies at fixed metallicity. In combination with simple photoionization models, the position of local and z ∼ 2.3 galaxies in excitation diagrams suggests that there is no significant change in the hardness of the ionizing spectrum at fixed metallicity from z ∼ 0 to z ∼ 2.3. We find that z ∼ 2.3 galaxies show no offset compared to low-metallicity local galaxies in emission line ratio diagrams involving only lines of hydrogen, oxygen, and sulfur, but show a systematic offset in diagrams involving [N ii]λ6584. We conclude that the offset of z ∼ 2.3 galaxies from the local star-forming sequence in the [N ii] BPT diagram is primarily driven by elevated N/O at fixed O/H compared to local galaxies. These results suggest that the local gas-phase and stellar metallicity sets the ionization state of star-forming regions at z ∼ 0 and z ∼ 2.

Many UC-authored scholarly publications are freely available on this site because of the UC's open access policies. Let us know how this access is important for you.

Item not freely available? Link broken?
Report a problem accessing this item