We report the discovery of a candidate galaxy with a photo-z of z~12 in the first epoch of the JWST Cosmic Evolution Early Release Science (CEERS) Survey. Following conservative selection criteria we identify a source with a robust z_phot = 11.8^+0.3_-0.2 (1-sigma uncertainty) with m_F200W=27.3, and >7-sigma detections in five filters. The source is not detected at lambda < 1.4um in deep imaging from both HST and JWST, and has faint ~3-sigma detections in JWST F150W and HST F160W, which signal a Ly-alpha break near the red edge of both filters, implying z~12. This object (Maisie's Galaxy) exhibits F115W-F200W > 1.9 mag (2-sigma lower limit) with a blue continuum slope, resulting in 99.6% of the photo-z PDF favoring z > 11. All data quality images show no artifacts at the candidate's position, and independent analyses consistently find a strong preference for z > 11. Its colors are inconsistent with Galactic stars, and it is resolved (r_h = 340 +/- 14 pc). Maisie's Galaxy has log M*/Msol ~ 8.5 and is highly star-forming (log sSFR ~ -8.2 yr^-1), with a blue rest-UV color (beta ~ -2.5) indicating little dust though not extremely low metallicity. While the presence of this source is in tension with most predictions, it agrees with empirical extrapolations assuming UV luminosity functions which smoothly decline with increasing redshift. Should followup spectroscopy validate this redshift, our Universe was already aglow with galaxies less than 400 Myr after the Big Bang.
- Pub Date:
- July 2022
- Astrophysics - Astrophysics of Galaxies
- 17 pages, 6 figures, 3 tables, ApJL in press. Summary of changes from original submission: Improvements in astrometry generated a weak detection in F150W that reduces the photo-z to 11.8 but does not increase the likelihood of lower-z solutions. A full discussion of changes from the original version is available at: https://web.corral.tacc.utexas.edu/ceersdata/papers/Maisie_update.pdf