JWST UNCOVER: the overabundance of ultraviolet-luminous galaxies at z > 9

Iryna Chemerynska, Hakim Atek, Lukas J. Furtak, Adi Zitrin, Jenny E. Greene, Pratika Dayal, Andrea Weibel, Seiji Fujimoto, Vasily Kokorev, Andy D. Goulding, Christina C. Williams, Themiya Nanayakkara, Rachel Bezanson, Gabriel Brammer, Sam E. Cutler, Ivo Labbe, Joel Leja, Richard Pan, Sedona H. Price, Pieter van DokkumBingjie Wang, John R. Weaver, Katherine E. Whitaker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Over the past year, JWST has uncovered galaxies at record-breaking distances up to z ∼ 13. The JWST UNCOVER (ultra-deep NIRSpec and NIRcam observations before the epoch of reionization) program has obtained ultra-deep multiwavelength NIRCam imaging of the massive galaxy cluster A2744 over ∼45 arcmin2 down to ∼29.5 AB mag. Here, we present a robust ultraviolet (UV) luminosity function derived through lensing clusters at 9 < z < 12. Using comprehensive end-to-end simulations, we account for all lensing effects and systematic uncertainties in deriving both the amplification factors and the effective survey volume. Our results confirm the intriguing excess of UV-bright galaxies (MUV <−20 AB mag) previously reported at z > 9 in recent JWST studies. In particular, a double power-law (DPL) describes better the bright end of the luminosity function compared to the classical Schechter form. The number density of these bright galaxies is 10–100 times larger than theoretical predictions and previous findings based on Hubble Space Telescope (HST) observations. Additionally, we measure a star formation rate density of ρSFR = 10−2.64 M yr−1 Mpc−3 at these redshifts, which is 4–10 times higher than galaxy formation models that assume a constant star formation efficiency. Future wide-area surveys and accurate modelling of lensing-assisted observations will reliably constrain both the bright and the dim end of the UV luminosity function at z > 9, which will provide key benchmarks for galaxy formation models.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2615-2625
Number of pages11
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 2024

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


  • galaxies: formation
  • galaxies: high-redshift
  • galaxies: luminosity function, mass function
  • gravitational lensing: strong


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