Abstract

The Hubble Deep Field provides one of the deepest multiwavelength views of the distant Universe and has led to the detection of thousands of galaxies seen throughout cosmic time1. An early map of the Hubble Deep Field at a wavelength of 850 micrometres, which is sensitive to dust emission powered by star formation, revealed the brightest source in the field, dubbed HDF 850.1 (ref. 2). For more than a decade, and despite significant efforts, no counterpart was found at shorter wavelengths, and it was not possible to determine its redshift, size or mass3,4,5,6,7. Here we report a redshift of z = 5.183 for HDF 850.1, from a millimetre-wave molecular line scan. This places HDF 850.1 in a galaxy overdensity at z ≈ 5.2, corresponding to a cosmic age of only 1.1 billion years after the Big Bang. This redshift is significantly higher than earlier estimates3,4,6,8 and higher than those of most of the hundreds of submillimetre-bright galaxies identified so far. The source has a star-formation rate of 850 solar masses per year and is spatially resolved on scales of 5 kiloparsecs, with an implied dynamical mass of about 1.3 × 1011 solar masses, a significant fraction of which is present in the form of molecular gas. Despite our accurate determination of redshift and position, a counterpart emitting starlight remains elusive.

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Acknowledgements

This work is based on observations carried out with the IRAM Plateau de Bure Interferometer. IRAM is supported by MPG (Germany), INSU/CNRS (France) and IGN (Spain). The Jansky Very Large Array of NRAO is a facility of the National Science Foundation operated under cooperative agreement by Associated Universities, Inc. D.A.R. acknowledges support from NASA through a Spitzer Space Telescope grant. R.D. acknowledges funding through DLR project FKZ 50OR1004.

Author information

Affiliations

  1. Max-Planck Institut für Astronomie, Königstuhl 17, D-69117, Heidelberg, Germany

    • Fabian Walter
    • , Roberto Decarli
    • , Elisabete Da Cunha
    • , Jacqueline Hodge
    •  & Hans-Walter Rix
  2. National Radio Astronomy Observatory, Pete V. Domenici Array Science Center, PO Box O, Socorro, New Mexico 87801, USA

    • Fabian Walter
    •  & Chris Carilli
  3. Cavendish Laboratory, University of Cambridge, 19 J J Thomson Avenue, Cambridge CB3 0HE, UK

    • Chris Carilli
    • , Lindley Lentati
    •  & Roberto Maiolino
  4. Argelander Institute for Astronomy, University of Bonn, Auf dem Hügel 71, 53121 Bonn, Germany

    • Frank Bertoldi
  5. IRAM, 300 rue de la Piscine, F-38406 Saint-Martin d'Hères, France

    • Pierre Cox
    • , Dennis Downes
    • , Roberto Neri
    •  & Melanie Krips
  6. Laboratoire AIM, CEA/DSM-CNRS-Université Paris Diderot, Irfu/Service d’Astrophysique, CEA Saclay, Orme des Merisiers, 91191 Gif-sur-Yvette cedex, France

    • Emanuele Daddi
    •  & David Elbaz
  7. National Optical Astronomy Observatory, 950 North Cherry Avenue, Tucson, Arizona 85719, USA

    • Mark Dickinson
  8. Astronomy Department, California Institute of Technology, MC105-24, Pasadena, California 91125, USA

    • Richard Ellis
    •  & Dominik A. Riechers
  9. Max-Planck-Institut für Radioastronomie, Auf dem Hügel 69, 53121 Bonn, Germany

    • Axel Weiss
    •  & Karl Menten
  10. Department of Astronomy, University of Michigan, 500 Church Street, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109, USA

    • Eric Bell
  11. Universität Wien, Institut für Astronomie, Türkenschanzstraße 17, 1080 Wien, Austria

    • Helmut Dannerbauer
  12. Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics, University of California, Santa Cruz, California 95064, USA

    • Mark Krumholz
  13. INAF-Osservatorio Astronomico di Roma, via di Frascati 33, 00040 Monte Porzio Catone, Italy

    • Roberto Maiolino
  14. Department of Astronomy, University of Arizona, 933 North Cherry Avenue, Tucson, Arizona 85721, USA

    • Brant Robertson
    •  & Dan P. Stark
  15. Department of Astronomy, University of California at Berkeley, Berkeley, California 94720, USA

    • Hyron Spinrad
  16. Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, 4800 Oak Grove Drive, Pasadena, California 91109, USA

    • Daniel Stern

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Contributions

F.W. had the overall lead of the project. The Plateau de Bure Interferometer data were analysed by R.D., F.W., P.C., R.N., M.K. and D.D. The Jansky Very Large Array data reduction was performed by C.C., J.H. and L.L. The molecular gas excitation was led by A.W. Spectroscopic redshift information was provided by M.D., R.E., H.S., D.S. and D.P.S. The spectral energy distribution analysis, including new Herschel data, was led by E.D.C, D.E. and E.D. An updated lensing model was provided by D.D. All authors helped with the proposal, data analysis and interpretation.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Fabian Walter.

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    Supplementary Information

    This file contains Supplementary Text and Data 1-3, Supplementary Table 1, Supplementary Figures 1-2 and additional references.

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DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/nature11073

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