Tracing the cosmic web with star-forming galaxies in the distant universe
A research group led by Hiroshima University has revealed a picture of the increasing fraction of massive star-forming galaxies in the distant universe. Massive star-forming galaxies in the distant universe, about 5 billion years ago, trace large-scale structure in the universe. In the nearby universe, about 3 billion years ago, massive star-forming galaxies are not apparent. This change in the way star-forming galaxies trace the matter distribution is consistent with the picture of galaxy evolution established by other independent studies.
Increasingly, deeper and more extensive observations with telescopes like Subaru Telescope provide a clearer picture of the way galaxies evolve within the cosmic web. Of course, one cannot see the dark matter directly. However, one can use the galaxies that are seen to trace the dark matter. It is also possible to use the way the gravity of clusters of galaxies distort more distant background galaxies, weak gravitational lensing, as another tracer.
The Hiroshima group combined these two tracers: galaxies and their weak lensing signal to map the changing role of massive star-forming galaxies as the universe evolves.
Dr. Yousuke Utsumi, a member of Hyper Suprime-Cam building team and a project assistant professor at Hiroshima University, conducted a 1-hour observation of a 4-deg2 patch of sky in the direction of the constellation Cancer. Figure 1 shows a close-up view of a cluster of galaxies with the weak lensing map tracing the matter distribution. The highest peaks in the maps correspond the foreground massive clusters of galaxies that lie 5 billion light-years away.
To map the three-dimensional distribution of the foreground galaxies, spectrographs on large telescopes like the 6.5-meter MMT disperse the light with a grating. The expansion of the universe shifts the light to the red and by measuring this shift one measures the distances to the galaxies. Using spectroscopy places the galaxies in the cosmic web. The observations locate star-forming galaxies and those that are no longer forming stars.
The MMT redshift survey provides the map for the way all types of galaxies might contribute to the weak lensing map. Because the MMT survey provides distances to the galaxies, slices of the map at different distances corresponding to different epochs in the history of the universe can also be made and compared with the lensing map.
The MMT survey provides a predicted map of the cosmic web based on the positions of galaxies in three-dimensional space. Research team compared this map with the weak lensing map to discover the similarities. Figure 2 shows that both the highest peak and the largest empty regions are similar in the two maps. In other words, the matter distribution traced by the foreground galaxies and the distribution traced by the Subaru weak lensing map are similar. There are two complementary views of the cosmic web in this patch of the universe.
The research team provides a new window on galaxy evolution by comparing the three-dimensional galaxy distribution mapped with a redshift survey including star-forming galaxies to a weak lensing map based on Subaru imaging.
"It turns out that the contribution of star-forming galaxies as tracers of the mass distribution in the distant universe is not negligible," said Dr. Utsumi. "The HSC weak lensing map should contain signals from more distant galaxies in the 8 billion-year-old universe. Deeper redshift surveys combined with similar weak lensing maps should reveal an even greater contribution of star-forming galaxies as tracers of the matter distribution in this higher redshift range. Using the next generation spectrograph for the Subaru Telescope, Prime Focus Spectrograph (PFS), we hope to extend our maps to the interesting era."
The research is published in the Astrophysical Journal.
Source: Subaru Telescope [January 31, 2017]