The galaxy UV luminosity function at z ≃ 2-4; new results on faint-end slope and the evolution of luminosity density

Shaghayegh Parsa, James S. Dunlop, Ross J. McLure, Alice Mortlock

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

We present a new, robust measurement of the evolving rest-frame ultraviolet (UV) galaxy luminosity function (LF) over the key redshift range from z ≃ 2 to z ≃ 4. Our results are based on the high dynamic range provided by combining the Hubble Ultra Deep Field (HUDF), CANDELS/GOODS-South, and UltraVISTA/COSMOS surveys. We utilize the unparalleled multifrequency photometry available in this survey `wedding cake' to compile complete galaxy samples at z ≃ 2, 3, 4 via photometric redshifts (calibrated against the latest spectroscopy) rather than colour-colour selection, and to determine accurate rest-frame UV absolute magnitudes (M1500) from spectral energy distribution (SED) fitting. Our new determinations of the UV LF extend from M1500 ≃ -22 (AB mag) down to M1500 = -14.5, -15.5 and -16 at z ≃ 2, 3 and 4, respectively (thus, reaching ≃ 3-4 mag fainter than previous blank-field studies at z ≃ 2,3). At z ≃ 2, 3, we find a much shallower faint-end slope (α = -1.32 ± 0.03) than reported in some previous studies (α ≃ -1.7), and demonstrate that this new measurement is robust. By z ≃ 4, the faint-end slope has steepened slightly, to α = -1.43 ± 0.04, and we show that these measurements are consistent with the overall evolutionary trend from z = 0 to 8. Finally, we find that while characteristic number density (φ*) drops from z ≃ 2 to z ≃ 4, characteristic luminosity (M*) brightens by ≃ 1 mag. This, combined with the new flatter faint-end slopes, has the consequence that UV luminosity density (and hence unobscured star formation density) peaks at z ≃ 2.5-3, when the Universe was ≃ 2.5 Gyr old.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3194-3211
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number3
Early online date5 Jan 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2016

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • galaxies: evolution
  • galaxies: luminosity function
  • mass function
  • galaxies: photometry


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