First results from the Lyman Alpha Galaxies in the Epoch of Reionization (LAGER) survey: Cosmological Reionization at z ~ 7 [GA]

We present the first results from the ongoing LAGER project (Lyman Alpha Galaxies in the Epoch of Reionization), which is the largest narrowband survey for $z\sim$ 7 galaxies to date. Using a specially built narrowband filter NB964 for the superb large-area Dark-Energy Camera (DECam) on the NOAO/CTIO 4m Blanco telescope, LAGER has collected 34 hours NB964 narrowband imaging data in the 3 deg$^2$ COSMOS field. We have identified 27 Lyman Alpha Emitter (LAE) candidates at $z=$ 6.9 in the central 2-deg$^2$ region, where DECam and public COSMOS multi-band images exist. The resulting luminosity function can be described as a Schechter function modified by a significant excess at the bright end (4 galaxies with L$_{Ly\alpha}\sim$ 10$^{43.4\pm0.2}$ erg s$^{-1}$). The number density at L$_{Ly\alpha}\sim$ 10$^{43.4\pm0.2}$ erg s$^{-1}$ is little changed from $z= 6.6$, while at fainter $L_{Ly\alpha}$ it is substantially reduced. Overall, we see a fourfold reduction in Ly$\alpha$ luminosity density from $z= 5.7$ to $6.9$. Combined with a more modest evolution of the continuum UV luminosity density, this suggests a factor of $\sim 3$ suppression of Ly$\alpha$ by radiative transfer through the $z\sim 7$ intergalactic medium (IGM). It indicates an IGM neutral fraction $x_{HI}$ $\sim$ 0.4-0.6 (assuming Ly$\alpha$ velocity offsets of 100-200 km s$^{-1}$). The changing shape of the Ly$\alpha$ luminosity function between $z\lesssim 6.6$ and $z=6.9$ supports the hypothesis of ionized bubbles in a patchy reionization at $z\sim$ 7.

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Z. Zheng, J. Wang, J. Rhoads, et. al.
Fri, 10 Mar 17

Comments: 6 pages, 3 figures, submitted to ApJ Letters