Observing the first galaxies

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


I endeavour to provide a thorough overview of our current knowledge of high-redshift galaxies and their evolution during the first billion years of cosmic time, corresponding to redshifts z > 5. After first summarizing progress with the seven different techniques which have been used to date in the discovery of objects at z > 5, I focus thereafter on the two selection methods which have yielded substantial samples of galaxies at early times, namely Lyman-break and Lyman-alpha selection. I discuss a decade of progress in galaxy sample selection at z ~ 5 - 8, including issues of completeness and contamination, and address some of the confusion which has been created by erroneous reports of extreme-redshift objects. Next I provide an overview of our current knowledge of the evolving ultraviolet continuum and Lyman-alpha galaxy luminosity functions at z ~ 5 - 8, and discuss what can be learned from exploring the relationship between the Lyman-break and Lyman-alpha selected populations. I then summarize what is known about the physical properties of these galaxies in the young universe, before considering the wider implications of this work for the cosmic history of star formation, and for the reionization of the universe. I conclude with a brief summary of the exciting prospects for further progress in this field in the next 5-10 years. Throughout, key concepts such as selection techniques and luminosity functions are explained assuming essentially no prior knowledge. The intention is that this chapter can be used as an introduction to the observational study of high-redshift galaxies, as well as providing a review of the latest results in this fast-moving research field up to the end of 2011.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe First Galaxies
Subtitle of host publicationTheoretical Predictions and Observational Clues
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2012

Publication series

NameAstrophysics and Space Science Library
ISSN (Print)0067-0057


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