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Journal Article

The MOSDEF Survey: Neon as a probe of ISM physical conditions at high redshift


Price,  Sedona H.
Infrared and Submillimeter Astronomy, MPI for Extraterrestrial Physics, Max Planck Society;

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Jeong, M.-S., Shapley, A. E., Sanders, R. L., Runco, J. N., Topping, M. W., Reddy, N. A., et al. (2020). The MOSDEF Survey: Neon as a probe of ISM physical conditions at high redshift. The Astrophysical Journal Letters, 902(1): L16. doi:10.3847/2041-8213/abba7a.

Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0007-8BBB-A
We present results on the properties of neon emission in z ~ 2 star-forming galaxies drawn from the MOSFIRE Deep Evolution Field (MOSDEF) survey. Doubly ionized neon ([Ne iii]λ3869) is detected at ≥3σ in 61 galaxies, representing ~25% of the MOSDEF sample with Hα, Hβ, and [O iii]λ5007 detections at similar redshifts. We consider the neon emission-line properties of both individual galaxies with [Ne iii]λ3869 detections and composite z ~ 2 spectra binned by stellar mass. With no requirement of [Ne iii]λ3869 detection, the latter provide a more representative picture of neon emission-line properties in the MOSDEF sample. The [Ne iii]λ3869/[O ii]λ3727 ratio (Ne3O2) is anticorrelated with stellar mass in z ~ 2 galaxies, as expected based on the mass–metallicity relation. It is also positively correlated with the [O iii]λ5007/[O ii]λ3727 ratio (O32), but z ~ 2 line ratios are offset toward higher Ne3O2 at fixed O32, compared with both local star-forming galaxies and individual H ii regions. Despite the offset toward higher Ne3O2 at fixed O32 at z ~ 2, biases in inferred Ne3O2-based metallicity are small. Accordingly, Ne3O2 may serve as an important metallicity indicator deep into the reionization epoch. Analyzing additional rest-optical line ratios including [Ne iii]λ3869/[O iii]λ5007 (Ne3O3) and [O iii]λ5007/Hβ (O3Hβ), we conclude that the nebular emission-line ratios of z ~ 2 star-forming galaxies suggest a harder ionizing spectrum (lower stellar metallicity, i.e., Fe/H) at fixed gas-phase oxygen abundance, compared to systems at z ~ 0. These new results based on neon lend support to the physical picture painted by oxygen, nitrogen, hydrogen, and sulfur emission of an ionized interstellar medium in high-redshift star-forming galaxies irradiated by chemically young, α-enhanced massive stars.