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X-rays across the galaxy population I: tracing the main sequence of star formation

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3390-3415
Number of pages26
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number3
Early online date17 Nov 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2017


We use deep Chandra imaging to measure the distribution of X-ray luminosities (L_X) for samples of star-forming galaxies as a function of stellar mass and redshift, using a Bayesian method to push below the nominal X-ray detection limits. Our luminosity distributions all show narrow peaks at L_X <10^{42} erg/s that we associate with star formation, as opposed to AGN that are traced by a broad tail to higher L_X. Tracking the luminosity of these peaks as a function of stellar mass reveals an "X-ray main sequence" with a constant slope ~0.63 +/- 0.03 over 8.5 <log M*/Msun <11.5 and 0.1 <z <4, with a normalization that increases with redshift as (1+z)^{3.79+/-0.12}. We also compare the peak X-ray luminosities with UV-to-IR tracers of star formation rates (SFRs) to calibrate the scaling between L_X and SFR. We find that L_X \propto SFR^{0.83} x (1+z)^{1.3}, where the redshift evolution and non-linearity likely reflect changes in high-mass X-ray binary populations of star-forming galaxies. Using galaxies with a broader range of SFR, we also constrain a stellar-mass-dependent contribution to L_X, likely related to low-mass X-ray binaries. Using this calibration, we convert our X-ray main sequence to SFRs and measure a star-forming main sequence with a constant slope ~0.76+/-0.06 and a normalization that evolves with redshift as (1+z)^{2.95+/-0.33}. Based on the X-ray emission, there is no evidence for a break in the main sequence at high stellar masses, although we cannot rule out a turnover given the uncertainties in the scaling of L_X to SFR.

    Research areas

  • astro-ph.GA, astro-ph.HE

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