An alma survey of submillimetre galaxies in the extended chandra deep field south: High-Resolution 870 μm source counts

A. Karim*, A. M. Swinbank, J. A. Hodge, I. R. Smail, F. Walter, A. D. Biggs, J. M. Simpson, A. L.R. Danielson, D. M. Alexander, F. Bertoldi, C. de Breuck, S. C. Chapman, K. E.K. Coppin, H. Dannerbauer, A. C. Edge, T. R. Greve, R. J. Ivison, K. K. Knudsen, K. M. Menten, E. SchinnererJ. L. Wardlow, A. Weiß, P. van der Werf

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We report the first counts of faint submillimetre galaxies (SMGs) in the 870-μm band derived from arcsecond-resolution observations with the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA). We have used ALMA to map a sample of 122 870-μm-selected submillimetre sources drawn from the 0°.5x0°.5 the Large Apex BOlometer CAmera (LABOCA) Extended Chandra Deep Field South submillimetre survey (LESS). These ALMA maps have an average depth of σ870μm ~ 0.4 mJy, some approximately three times deeper than the original LABOCA survey and critically the angular resolution is more than an order of magnitude higher, FWHM of ~1.5 arcsec compared to ~19 arcsec for the LABOCA discovery map. This combination of sensitivity and resolution allows us to precisely pinpoint the SMGs contributing to the submillimetre sources from the LABOCA map, free from the effects of confusion. We show that our ALMA-derived SMG counts broadly agree with the submillimetre source counts from previous, lower resolution single-dish surveys, demonstrating that the bulk of the submillimetre sources are not caused by blending of unresolved SMGs. The difficulty which well-constrained theoretical models have in reproducing the high surface densities of SMGs, thus remains. However, our observations do show that all of the very brightest sources in the LESS sample, S870μm 12 mJy, comprise emission from multiple, fainter SMGs, each with 870-μm fluxes of 9 mJy. This implies a natural limit to the star formation rate in SMGs of 103 M⊙ yr-1, which in turn suggests that the space densities of z > 1 galaxies with gas masses in excess of ~5 x 1010 M⊙ is 10-5 Mpc-3. We also discuss the influence of this blending on the identification and characterization of the SMG counterparts to these bright submillimetre sources and suggest that it may be responsible for previous claims that they lie at higher redshifts than fainter SMGs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2-9
Number of pages8
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 26 Mar 2013


  • Galaxies: abundances
  • Galaxies: evolution
  • Galaxies: formation
  • Galaxies: star formation
  • Galaxies: starburst
  • Submillimetre: galaxies


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