Lyman continuum observations across cosmic time: Recent developments, future requirements

Stephan R. McCandliss, Daniela Calzetti, Henry C. Ferguson, Steven Finkelstein, Brian T. Fleming, Kevin France, Matthew Hayes, Timothy Heckman, Alaina Henry, Akio K. Inoue, Anne Jaskot, Claus Leitherer, Sally Oey, John O'Meara, Marc Postman, Laura Prichard, Swara Ravindranath, Jane Rigby, Claudia Scarlata, Daniel SchaererAlice Shapley, Eros Vanzella

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Quantifying the physical conditions that allow radiation emitted shortward of the hydrogen ionization edge at 911.7 Å to escape the first collapsed objects and ultimately reionize the universe is a compelling problem for astrophysics. The escape of LyC emission from star-forming galaxies and active galactic nuclei is intimately tied to the emergence and sustenance of the metagalactic ionizing background (MIB) that pervades the universe to the present day and in turn is tied to the emergence of structure at all epochs. The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) was built in part to search for the source(s) responsible for reionization, but it cannot observe LyC escape directly, because of the progressive increase in the mean transmission of the intergalactic medium towards the epoch of reionization. Remarkable progress has been made to date in directly detecting LyC leaking from star-forming galaxies using space-based and the ground-based observatories, but there remain significant gaps in our redshift coverage of the phenomenon. Ongoing projects to measure LyC escape at low- and intermediate-z will provide guidance to JWST investigations by analyzing the robustness of a set of proposed LyC escape proxies, and also provide a closeup examination of the physical conditions that favor LyC escape. However, currently available facilities are inadequate for deeply probing LyC escape at the faint end of the galaxy luminosity function. Doing so will require facilities that can detect LyC emission in the restframe to limiting magnitudes approaching 28 < m(1+z)900 < 32 for M(1+z)1500 galaxies. The goal of acquiring statistically robust samples for determining LyC luminosity functions across cosmic time will require multi-object spectroscopy from spacebased flagship class and groundbased ELT class telescopes along with ancillary panchromatic imaging and spectroscopy spanning the far-UV to the mid-IR.

Original languageEnglish
JournalUnknown Journal
Publication statusPublished - 2019 May 27
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General

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