Get access

Gravitationally lensed galaxies at 2 < z < 3.5: direct abundance measurements of Ly α emitters


  • Based on data from the X-shooter GTO observations collected at the European Southern Observatory VLT/Kuyuen telescope, Paranal, Chile, collected under programme IDs: 084.B-0351(D), 086.A-0674(A), 086.A-0674(B), 087.A-0432(A) and 087.A-0432(B).



Strong gravitational lensing magnifies the flux from distant galaxies, allowing us to detect emission lines that would otherwise fall below the detection threshold for medium-resolution spectroscopy. Here we present the detection of temperature-sensitive oxygen emission lines from three galaxies at 2 ≲ z ≲ 3.5, which enables us to directly determine the oxygen abundances and thereby double the number of galaxies at z > 2 for which this has been possible. The three galaxies have ∼10 per cent solar oxygen abundances in agreement with strong emission-line diagnostics. Carbon and nitrogen ratios relative to oxygen are subsolar as expected for young metal-poor galaxies. Two of the galaxies are Lyman α (Lyα) emitters with rest-frame equivalent widths of 20 and 40 Å, respectively, and their high magnification factors allow us for the first time to gain insight into the physical characteristics of high-redshift Lyα emitters. Using constraints from the physical properties of the galaxies, we accurately reproduce their line profiles with radiative transfer models. The models show a relatively small outflow in agreement with the observed small velocity offsets between nebular emission and interstellar absorption lines.

Get access to the full text of this article