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A candidate redshift z ≈ 10 galaxy and rapid changes in that population at an age of 500 Myr

Abstract

Searches for very-high-redshift galaxies over the past decade have yielded a large sample of more than 6,000 galaxies existing just 900–2,000 million years (Myr) after the Big Bang (redshifts 6 > z > 3; ref. 1). The Hubble Ultra Deep Field (HUDF09) data2,3 have yielded the first reliable detections of z ≈ 8 galaxies3,4,5,6,7,8,9 that, together with reports of a γ-ray burst at z ≈ 8.2 (refs 10, 11), constitute the earliest objects reliably reported to date. Observations of z ≈ 7–8 galaxies suggest substantial star formation at z > 9–10 (refs 12, 13). Here we use the full two-year HUDF09 data to conduct an ultra-deep search for z ≈ 10 galaxies in the heart of the reionization epoch, only 500 Myr after the Big Bang. Not only do we find one possible z ≈ 10 galaxy candidate, but we show that, regardless of source detections, the star formation rate density is much smaller (10%) at this time than it is just 200 Myr later at z ≈ 8. This demonstrates how rapid galaxy build-up was at z ≈ 10, as galaxies increased in both luminosity density and volume density from z ≈ 10 to z ≈ 8. The 100–200 Myr before z ≈ 10 is clearly a crucial phase in the assembly of the earliest galaxies.

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Figure 1: Optical and near-infrared images of the candidate z  ≈ 10 galaxy, UDFj-39546284, from the HUDF.
Figure 2: Predicted redshift distributions for our z  ≈ 8.5 and z  ≈ 10 galaxy candidates.
Figure 3: Ultraviolet luminosity functions at z  ≈ 4, z  ≈ 7 and constraints for z  ≈ 10.
Figure 4: The luminosity density and star formation rate density in the Universe over 13.2 Gyr.

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Acknowledgements

We are grateful to all those at NASA, STScI and throughout the community who have worked to make the Hubble Space Telescope the observatory that it is today, and we acknowledge the importance of the servicing missions and those who organised them. We acknowledge our program coordinator W. Januszewski for his care in helping to set up our program and observing configuration. We acknowledge support from NASA and the Swiss National Science Foundation.

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Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Contributions

R.J.B. carried out the most of the data analysis and calculations for this paper, and wrote most of the Supplementary Information; G.D.I. wrote most of the text in the Letter and iterated on the initial science results and content with R.J.B.; I.L., P.A.O., M.T., C.M.C., P.G.v.D., M.F., M.S. and L.B. provided significant feedback on the science content and on the drafts; I.L. and V.G. were involved with processing the Spitzer IRAC data; P.A.O. contributed to the data analysis; M.T. made the cosmic variance estimates; and D.M. was involved in data processing and pipeline generation for the WFC3/IR data.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to R. J. Bouwens.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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The file contains Supplementary Text and Data, Supplementary Figures 1-10 with legends, Supplementary Tables 1-2 and additional references. (PDF 731 kb)

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Bouwens, R., Illingworth, G., Labbe, I. et al. A candidate redshift z ≈ 10 galaxy and rapid changes in that population at an age of 500 Myr. Nature 469, 504–507 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1038/nature09717

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