James Webb Space Telescope Feed Post

Date: 2/12/2024

Harvard ADS: Ly\alpha emission in galaxies at z\simeq5-6: new insight from JWST into the statistical distributions of Ly\alpha properties at the end of reionization

Paper abstract: JWST has recently sparked a new era of Lya spectroscopy, delivering the first measurements of the Lya escape fraction and velocity profile in typical galaxies at z~6-10. These observations offer new prospects for insight into the earliest stages of reionization. But to realize this potential, we need robust intrinsic models of Lya properties in galaxies at z~5-6 when the IGM is mostly ionized. Here we use new JWST observations from the JADES and FRESCO surveys to characterize statistical distributions of Lya velocity offsets, escape fractions, and EWs in z~5-6 galaxies that will be applicable to growing datasets at z>6. We find that galaxies with large Lya escape fractions (>0.2) are common at z~5-6, comprising 30% of Lyman break selected samples. Comparing to literature studies, our census suggests that Lya becomes more prevalent in the galaxy population toward higher redshift from z~3 to z~6, although we find that this evolution slows considerably between z~5 and z~6, consistent with modest attenuation from residual HI in the mostly ionized IGM at z~5-6. We find significant evolution in Lya velocity profiles between z~2-3 and z~5-6. At lower redshifts, the strongest Lya emitters often have line profiles peaking near the systemic redshift, reflecting escape through low HI density channels. At z~5-6, the strongest Lya emitters have profiles with flux emerging at typical redshifted velocities ~230km/s. The rarity of Lya emitters with peak flux near the systemic redshift at z~5-6 may reflect the influence of resonant scattering from residual HI in the IGM. This effect will make it challenging to use Lya peak offsets as a probe of Lyman continuum leakage at z~5-6. We use our z~5-6 Lya distributions to make predictions for typical Lya properties at z>8 and discuss implications of a recently-discovered Lya emitter at z=8.5 with a small peak velocity offset (156km/s).