Lyman Continuum Emission Escaping from Luminous Green Pea Galaxies at z = 0.5
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Lyman Continuum Emission Escaping from Luminous Green Pea Galaxies at z = 0.5


Abstract Compact starburst galaxies are thought to include many or most of the galaxies from which substantial Lyman continuum emission can escape into the intergalactic medium. Li & Malkan used Sloan Digital Sky Survey photometry to find a population of such starburst galaxies at z ∼ 0.5. They were discovered by their extremely strong [O iii] λλ4959+5007 emission lines, which produce a clearly detectable excess brightness in the i bandpass, compared with surrounding filters. We therefore used the Hubble Space Telescope (HST)/COS spectrograph to observe two of the newly discovered i-band excess galaxies around their Lyman limits. One has strongly detected continuum below its Lyman limit, corresponding to a relative escape fraction of ionizing photons of 20% ± 2%. The other, which is less compact in UV imaging, has a 2σ upper limit to its Lyman escape fraction of <5%. Before the UV spectroscopy, the existing data could not distinguish these two galaxies. Although a sample of two is hardly sufficient for statistical analysis, it shows the possibility that some fraction of these strong [O iii] emitters as a class have ionizing photons escaping. The differences might be determined by the luck of our particular viewing geometry. Obtaining the HST spectroscopy revealed that the Lyman-continuum-emitting galaxy differs in having no central absorption in its prominent Lyα emission-line profile. The other target, with no escaping Lyman continuum, shows the more common double-peaked Lyα emission.

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