Modelling high redshift Lyman α emitters

Garel, T. ; Blaizot, J. ; Guiderdoni, B. ; Schaerer, D. ; Verhamme, A. ; Hayes, M.

In: Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 2012, vol. 422, no. 1, p. 310-325

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    We present a new model for high redshift Lyman α emitters (LAEs) in the cosmological context which takes into account the resonant scattering of Lyα photons through expanding gas. The GALICS semi-analytic model provides us with the physical properties of a large sample of high redshift galaxies. We implement, in post-processing, a gas outflow model for each galaxy based on simple scaling arguments. The coupling with a library of numerical experiments of Lyα transfer through expanding (or static) dusty shells of gas allows us to derive the Lyα escape fraction and profile of each galaxy. Results obtained with this new approach are compared with simpler models often used in the literature. The predicted distribution of Lyα photons escape fraction shows that galaxies with a low star formation rate (SFR) have a fesc of the order of unity, suggesting that, for those objects, Lyα may be used to trace the SFR assuming a given conversion law. In galaxies forming stars intensely, the escape fraction spans the whole range from 0 to 1. The model is able to get a good match to the ultraviolet (UV) and Lyα luminosity function data at 3 < z < 5. We find that we are in good agreement with both the bright Lyα data and the faint LAE population observed by Rauch et al. at z= 3 whereas a simpler constant Lyαescape fraction model fails to do so. Most of the Lyα profiles of our LAEs are redshifted by the diffusion in the expanding gas which suppresses intergalactic medium absorption and scattering. The bulk of the observed Lyα equivalent width (EW) distribution is recovered by our model, but we fail to obtain the very large values sometimes detected. Our predictions for stellar masses and UV luminosity functions of LAEs show a satisfactory agreement with observational estimates. The UV-brightest galaxies are found to show only low Lyα EWs in our model, as it is reported by many observations of high redshift LAEs. We interpret this effect as the joint consequence of old stellar populations hosted by UV-bright galaxies, and high H i column densities that we predict for these objects, which quench preferentially resonant Lyα photons via dust extinction