James Webb Space Telescope Feed Post

Date: 6/10/2024

Harvard ADS: A Strong He II λ1640 Emitter with an Extremely Blue UV Spectral Slope at z = 8.16: Presence of Population III Stars?

Paper abstract: Cosmic hydrogen reionization and cosmic production of the first metals are major phase transitions of the Universe occurring during the first billion years after the Big Bang; however, these are still underexplored observationally. Using the JWST/NIRSpec prism spectroscopy, we report the discovery of a sub-L * galaxy at z spec = 8.1623 ± 0.0007, dubbed RX J2129–z8He II, via the detection of a series of strong rest-frame UV/optical nebular emission lines and the clear Lyman break. RX J2129–z8He II shows a pronounced UV continuum with an extremely steep (i.e., blue) spectral slope of , the steepest among all spectroscopically confirmed galaxies at z spec ? 7, in support of its very hard ionizing spectrum that could lead to a significant leakage of its ionizing flux. Therefore, RX J2129–z8He II is representative of the key galaxy population driving the cosmic reionization. More importantly, we detect a strong He II ?1640 emission line in its spectrum, one of the highest redshifts at which such a line is robustly detected. Its high rest-frame equivalent width (EW = 21 ± 4 Å) and extreme flux ratios with respect to UV metal and Balmer lines raise the possibility that part of RX J2129–z8He II's stellar population could be Pop III (Pop III)-like. Through careful photoionization modeling, we show that the physically calibrated phenomenological models of the ionizing spectra of Pop III stars with strong mass loss can successfully reproduce the emission line flux ratios observed in RX J2129–z8He II. Assuming the Eddington limit, the total mass of the Pop III stars within this system is estimated to be 7.8 ± 1.4 × 105 M ?. To date, this galaxy presents the most compelling case in the early Universe where trace Pop III stars might coexist with metal-enriched populations.