Extreme emission-line galaxies out to z ~ 1 in zCOSMOS. I. Sample and characterization of global properties
Context. The study of large and representative samples of low-metallicity star-forming galaxies at different cosmic epochs is of great interest to the detailed understanding of the assembly history and evolution of low-mass galaxies.
Aims: We present a thorough characterization of a large sample of 183 extreme emission-line galaxies (EELGs) at redshift 0.11 ≤ z ≤ 0.93 selected from the 20k zCOSMOS bright survey because of their unusually large emission line equivalent widths.
Methods: We use multiwavelength COSMOS photometry, HST-ACS I-band imaging, and optical zCOSMOS spectroscopy to derive the main global properties of star-forming EELGs, such as sizes, stellar masses, star formation rates (SFR), and reliable oxygen abundances using both "direct" and "strong-line" methods.
Results: The EELGs are extremely compact (r50 ~ 1.3 kpc), low-mass (M∗ ~ 107-1010 M⊙) galaxies forming stars at unusually high specific star formation rates (sSFR ≡ SFR/M⋆ up to 10-7 yr-1) compared to main sequence star-forming galaxies of the same stellar mass and redshift. At rest-frame UV wavelengths, the EELGs are luminous and show high surface brightness and include strong Lyα emitters, as revealed by GALEX spectroscopy. We show that zCOSMOS EELGs are high-ionization, low-metallicity systems, with median 12+log (O/H) = 8.16 ± 0.21 (0.2 Z⊙) including a handful of extremely metal-deficient (<0.1 Z⊙) EELGs. While ~80% of the EELGs show non-axisymmetric morphologies, including clumpy and cometary or tadpole galaxies, we find that ~29% of them show additional low-surface-brightness features, which strongly suggests recent or ongoing interactions. As star-forming dwarfs in the local Universe, EELGs are most often found in relative isolation. While only very few EELGs belong to compact groups, almost one third of them are found in spectroscopically confirmed loose pairs or triplets.
Conclusions: The zCOSMOS EELGs are galaxies caught in a transient and probably early period of their evolution, where they are efficiently building up a significant fraction of their present-day stellar mass in an ongoing, galaxy-wide starburst. Therefore, the EELGs constitute an ideal benchmark for comparison studies between low- and high-redshift low-mass star-forming galaxies.
Astronomy and Astrophysics
- Pub Date:
- June 2015
- galaxies: evolution;
- galaxies: fundamental parameters;
- galaxies: abundances;
- galaxies: starburst;
- galaxies: irregular;
- galaxies: star formation;
- Astrophysics - Astrophysics of Galaxies;
- Astrophysics - Cosmology and Nongalactic Astrophysics
- Accepted in A&