Hubble Space Telescope Wfc3 Grism Spectroscopy and Imaging of a Growing Compact Galaxy


We present HST/WFC3 grism spectroscopy of the brightest galaxy at z > 1.5 in the GOODS-South WFC3 Early Release Science grism pointing, covering the wavelength range 0.9μm – 1.7μm. The spectrum is of remarkable quality and shows the redshifted Balmer lines Hβ, Hγ, and Hδ in absorption at z = 1.902± 0.002, correcting previous erroneous redshift measurements from the rest-frame UV. The average rest-frame equivalent width of the Balmer lines is 8 ű1 Å, which can be produced by a post-starburst stellar population with a luminosity-weighted age of ≈ 0.5 Gyr. The M/L ratio inferred from the spectrum implies a stellar mass of (4±1)×1011 M⊙. We determine the morphology of the galaxy from a deep WFC3 H160 image. Similar to other massive galaxies at z ∼ 2 the galaxy is compact, with an effective radius of 2.1±0.3 kpc. Although most of the light is in a compact core, the galaxy has two red, smooth spiral arms that appear to be tidally-induced. The spatially-resolved spectroscopy demonstrates that the center of the galaxy is quiescent and the surrounding disk is forming stars, as it shows Hβ in emission. The galaxy is interacting with a companion at a projected distance of 18 kpc, which also shows prominent tidal features. The companion has a slightly redder spectrum than the primary galaxy but is a factor of ∼ 10 fainter and may have a lower metallicity. It is tempting to interpret these observations as “smoking gun” evidence for the growth of compact, quiescent high redshift galaxies through minor mergers, which has been proposed by several recent observational and theoretical studies. Interestingly both objects host luminous AGNs, as indicated by their X-ray luminosities, which implies that these mergers can be accompanied by significant black hole growth. This study illustrates the power of moderate dispersion, low background near-IR spectroscopy at HST resolution, which is now available with the WFC3 grism. Subject headings: cosmology: observations — galaxies: evolution — galaxies: formation

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@inproceedings{Brammer2010HubbleST, title={Hubble Space Telescope Wfc3 Grism Spectroscopy and Imaging of a Growing Compact Galaxy}, author={Gabriel B. Brammer}, year={2010} }