The Sizes of Diffuse Ly$α$ Nebulae around Star-Forming Galaxies at High Redshift [GA]

We report the detection of diffuse Ly$\alpha$ emission, or Lyman alpha halos (LAHs), around star-forming galaxies at $z\approx3.78$ and $2.66$ in the NOAO Deep Wide-Field Survey Bo\”otes field. Our samples consist of a total of $\approx$1,400 galaxies, within two separate regions containing spectroscopically confirmed galaxy overdensities. They provide a unique opportunity to investigate how the LAH characteristics vary with host galaxy large-scale environment and physical properties. We stack Ly$\alpha$ images of different samples defined by these properties and measure their median LAH sizes by decomposing the stacked Ly$\alpha$ radial profile into a compact galaxy-like and an extended halo-like component. We find that the exponential scalelength of LAHs depends on UV continuum and Ly$\alpha$ luminosities, but not on Ly$\alpha$ equivalent widths or galaxy overdensity parameters. The full samples, which are dominated by low UV-continuum luminosity Ly$\alpha$ emitters ($M_{\rm UV} \gtrsim -21$), exhibit LAH sizes of 5$\,-\,6\,$kpc. However, the most UV luminous galaxies have more extended halos with scalelengths of 8$\,-\,9\,$kpc. The stacked Ly$\alpha$ radial profiles of our samples decline more steeply than recent theoretical predictions that include the contributions from gravitational cooling of infalling gas and from low-level star formation in satellites. However, the LAH extent and surface brightness profile matches what one would expect for photons produced in the galaxy and then resonantly scattered by gas in an outflowing envelope. The observed trends of LAH sizes with host galaxy properties suggest that the physical conditions of the CGM (covering fraction, HI column density, and outflow velocity) change with halo mass and/or star formation rates.

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R. Xue, K. Lee, A. Dey, et. al.
Mon, 14 Nov 16

Comments: Resubmitted to ApJ after the referee’s comments