Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting nature.com. You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Evidence against a redshift z > 6 for the galaxy STIS123627+621755

Abstract

The identification of galaxies at extreme distances provides the most direct information about the earliest phases of galaxy formation. But at redshifts z > 5 even the most luminous galaxies appear faint; the interpretation of low signal-to-noise ratio data is difficult and misidentifications do occur. Here we report optical and near-infrared observations of the source STIS123627+621755, which was previously suggested to be at a redshift of 6.68 (ref. 1). At that redshift, and with the reported1 spectral energy distribution, the galaxy should be essentially invisible at wavelengths less than 9,300 Å, because the intervening intergalactic medium absorbs almost all light energetic enough to ionize neutral hydrogen—that is, with wavelengths less than the redshifted Lyman limit of λ = (1 + z) × 912 Å. At near-infrared wavelengths, however, the galaxy should be relatively bright. Here we report a detection of the galaxy at 6,700 Å and a non-detection at a wavelength of 1.2 µm, contrary to expectations for z ≈ 6.68. The data conservatively require that STIS123627+621755 has a redshift z < 6.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Access options

Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.

$32.00

All prices are NET prices.

Figure 1: Imaging of STIS123627+621755 showing that the galaxy is detected at R, below the Lyman limit if z = 6.68.
Figure 2: The photometric detection of STIS123627+621755 at 6,700 Å is not consistent with z > 6.

References

  1. Chen, H.-W., Lanzetta, K. M. & Pascarelle, S. Spectroscopic identification of a galaxy at a probable redshift of z = 6.68. Nature 398, 586–588 (1999).

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  2. Williams, R. E. et al. The Hubble Deep Field: observations, data reduction, and galaxy photometry. Astron. J. 112, 1335–1389 (1996).

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  3. Barger, A. et al. Constraints on the early formation of field elliptical galaxies. Astron. J. 117, 102–110 (1999).

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  4. Steidel, C. S., Giavalisco, M., Pettini, M., Dickinson, M. & Adelberger, K. L. Spectroscopic confirmation of a population of normal star-forming galaxies at redshifts z &lt; 3. Astrophys. J. 462, L17–L21 (1996).

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  5. Steidel, C. S., Adelberger, K. L., Giavalisco, M., Dickinson, M. & Pettini, M. Lyman-break galaxies at z 4 and the evolution of the ultraviolet luminosity density at high redshift. Astrophys. J. 519, 1–17 (1999).

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  6. Stern, D. et al. Discovery of a color-selected quasar at z = 5.50. Astrophys. J. 533, L75–L78 (2000).

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  7. Matthews, K. & Soifer, B. T. in Infrared Astronomy with Arrays: The Next Generation (ed. McLean, I.) 239–246 (Kluwer, Dordrecht, 1994).

    Book  Google Scholar 

  8. Oke, J. B.et al. The Keck low-resolution imaging spectrometer. Publ. Astron. Soc. Pacif. 107, 375–385 (1995).

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  9. Adelberger, K. L. & Steidel, C. C. Constraints on dusty star formation at high redshift from ultraviolet, far-infrared, and radio surveys. Astrophys. J. (in the press); preprint astro-ph/0001126 at 〈xxx.lanl.gov〉 (2000).

  10. Binney, J. & Merrifield, M. Galactic Astronomy (Princeton Univ. Press, Princeton, 1998).

    Google Scholar 

  11. Ruiz, M., Bergeron, P., Leggett, S. & Anguita, C. The extremely low luminosity white dwarf ESO 439-26. Astrophys. J. 455, L159–L162 (1995).

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  12. Harris, H. et al. A very low luminosity, very cool, DC white dwarf. Astrophys. J. 524, 1000–1007 (1999).

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  13. Stern, D., Bunker, A. J., Spinrad, H. & Dey, A. One-line redshifts and searches for high-redshift Lyα emission. Astrophys. J. 537, 73–79 (2000b).

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  14. Stockton, A. & Ridgway, S. E. Deep spectroscopy in the field of 3C 212. Astron. J. 115, 1340–1347 (1998).

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  15. Hogg, D. W., Cohen, J. G., Blandford, R. & Pahre, M. A. The [O II] luminosity density of the universe. Astrophys. J. 504, 622–628 (1998).

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  16. Leitherer, C. et al. Starburst99: synthesis models for galaxies with active star formation. Astrophys. J. Suppl. 123, 3–40 (1999).

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  17. Madau, P. Radiative transfer in a clumpy universe: the colors of high-redshift galaxies. Astrophys. J. 441, 18–27 (1995).

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgements

We acknowledge H. W. Chen and K. Lanzetta, who have been generous with information and supportive of our follow-up efforts on this intriguing source. We thank J. Gardner and J. Bloom for comments on the STIS data. We thank the staff of Keck Observatory for their help in obtaining the data. The W.M. Keck Observatory is operated as a scientific partnership among the University of California, the California Institute of Technology, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The Observatory was made possible by the generous financial support of the W.M. Keck Foundation. We especially thank G. Punawai and X. Jerome for their assistance during the observing runs. The work of D.S. and P.E. were carried out at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, under a contract with NASA. The work of W.v.B. and W.d.V. at the Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory was performed under the auspices of the US Department of Energy by University of California Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. This work has been supported by a grant from the NSF (H.S.).

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Daniel Stern.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Stern, D., Eisenhardt, P., Spinrad, H. et al. Evidence against a redshift z > 6 for the galaxy STIS123627+621755. Nature 408, 560–562 (2000). https://doi.org/10.1038/35046027

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/35046027

This article is cited by

Comments

By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.

Search

Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing