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Title: High redshift star-forming galaxies in absorption and emission
Author: Quider, Anna Marie
ISNI:       0000 0004 2708 4873
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2011
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Galaxies in the redshift range 1 < z < 3 existed during the most vigorous period of star formation in the history of the Universe. In the past 15 years, large rest-frame UV spectroscopic samples of z ~ 3 star-forming galaxies have been assembled. However, this particular redshift range, the so-called Redshift Desert, has only begun to be characterized. Most studies involve low resolution, low signal-to-noise spectra because the small angular size (δ ≤ 1") and faintness (RAB = 24 - 25.5) of high redshift galaxies limit what can be accomplished with a reasonable investment of observing time, even using the world's largest optical telescopes. One way to circumvent these two issues is to study gravitationally lensed galaxies. The magnification boost (up to a factor of 30x) and morphological distortion of a high redshift galaxy by an intervening mass concentration allow for the study of the high redshift Universe in unprecedented detail. I present a detailed analysis of the rest-UV spectrum of two gravitationally lensed galaxies: the 'Cosmic Horseshoe' (zsys = 2.38115) and the 'Cosmic Eye' (zsys = 3.07331). The characterization of the stellar populations and the interstellar gas geometry, kinematics, and composition which I achieve is a preview of the type of information that will be available for unlensed high redshift galaxies with the next generation of optical telescopes. I probe the lower redshift end of the Redshift Desert with a study of Fe ii and Mg ii features in the rest-frame near-UV spectrum of 96 star-forming galaxies in the redshift range 1 < z < 2. Stacked spectra are used to explore average outflow and line profile trends with stellar mass and reddening. I also investigate the phenomenon of emission filling of absorption lines which has implications for the line strength and velocity offset of interstellar absorption lines. Individual galaxies are used to assess the range of outflow velocities as well as the prevalence of emission filling in galaxies from this epoch. This is the first large scale study of fine-structure emission from Feii in high redshift galaxies, both in stacked and individual galaxy spectra. An alternative to investigating galaxies by collecting their light is to study them as seen in absorption against a cosmic backlight, such as a quasar. The Sloan Digital Sky Survey, an imaging and spectroscopic survey which covers about one-quarter of the night sky, has collected many thousands of quasar spectra. I search ~ 44,600 of these spectra, up through Data Release 4, for Mg ii λλ2796,2803 absorption doublets. The final catalog includes ~ 16700 Mgii absorption line systems in the redshift range 0.36 ≤ z ≤ 2.28. Measurements of the absorption redshift and rest equivalent widths of the Mg ii doublet as well as select metal lines are available in the catalog. This is the largest publicly available catalog of its kind and its combination of large size and well understood statistics make it ideal for precision studies of the low-ionization and neutral gas regions of galaxies. I conclude this thesis by suggesting several avenues for extending the studies of high redshift star-forming galaxies presented herein.
Supervisor: Pettini, Max Sponsor: Marshall Aid Commemoration Commission ; National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program ; Cambridge Overseas Trusts
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Galaxies--high redshift ; Galaxies--star-forming