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Physics  1998 

Lyman Break Galaxies at z>4 and the Evolution of the UV Luminosity Density at High Redshift

DOI: 10.1086/307363

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We present initial results of a survey for star-forming galaxies in the redshift range 3.8 < z < 4.5. This sample consists of a photometric catalog of 244 galaxies culled from a total solid angle of 0.23 square degrees to an apparent magnitude of I_{AB}=25.0. Spectroscopic redshifts in the range 3.61 < z < 4.81 have been obtained for 48 of these galaxies; their median redshift is =4.13. Selecting these galaxies in a manner entirely analogous to our large survey for Lyman break galaxies at smaller redshift (2.7 < z < 3.4) allows a relatively clean differential comparison between the populations and integrated luminosity density at these two cosmic epochs. Over the same range of UV luminosity, the spectroscopic properties of the galaxy samples at z~4 and z~3 are indistinguishable, as are the luminosity function shapes and the total integrated UV luminosity densities (rho_{UV}(z=3)/rho_{UV}(z=4) = 1.1 +/-0.3). We see no evidence at these bright magnitudes for the steep decline in the star formation density inferred from fainter photometric Lyman-break galaxies in the Hubble Deep Field (HDF). If the true luminosity density at z~4 is somewhat higher than implied by the HDF, as our ground-based sample suggests, then the emissivity of star formation as a function of redshift is essentially constant for all z>1 once internally consistent corrections for dust are made. This suggests that there is no obvious peak in star formation activity, and that the onset of substantial star formation in galaxies occurs at z > 4.5. [abridged abstract]


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