The nature of high [O iii]88 μ m/[C ii]158 μmgalaxies in the epoch of reionization: Low carbon abundance and a top-heavy IMF?

Harley Katz, Joakim Rosdahl, Taysun Kimm, Thibault Garel, Jérémy Blaizot, Martin G. Haehnelt, Léo Michel-Dansac, Sergio Martin-Alvarez, Julien Devriendt, Adrianne Slyz, Romain Teyssier, Pierre Ocvirk, Nicolas Laporte, Richard Ellis

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34 Scopus citations


ALMA observations of z > 6 galaxies hav e rev ealed abnormally high [O III ] 88 μm /[C II ] 158 μm ratios and [C II ] 158 μm deficits compared to local galaxies. The origin of this behaviour is unknown. Numerous solutions have been proposed including differences in C and O abundance ratios, observational bias, and differences in ISM properties, including ionization parameter, gas density, or photodissociation region (PDR) covering fraction. In order to elucidate the underlying physics that drives this high- redshift phenomenon, we employ SPHINX 20 , a state-of-the-art, cosmological radiation-hydrodynamics simulation, that resolves detailed ISM properties of thousands of galaxies in the epoch of reionization which has been post-processed with CLOUDY to predict emission lines. We find that the observed z > 6 [O III ] 88 μm -SFR and [C II ] 158 μm -SFR relations can only be reproduced when the C/O abundance ratio is ∼8 ×lower than Solar and the total metal production is ∼4 ×higher than that of a Kroupa IMF. This implies that high-redshift galaxies are potentially primarily enriched by low-metallicity core-collapse supernovae with a more top-heavy IMF. As AGB stars and type-Ia supernova begin to contribute to the galaxy metallicity, both the [C II ] 158 μm -SFR and [C II ] 158 μm luminosity functions are predicted to converge to observed values at z ∼4.5. While we demonstrate that ionization parameter, LyC escape fraction, ISM gas density, and CMB attenuation all drive galaxies towards higher [O III ] 88 μm /[C II ] 158 μm , observed values at z > 6 can only be reproduced with substantially lower C/O abundances compared to Solar. The combination of [C II ] 158 μm and [O III ] 88 μm can be used to predict the values of ionization parameter, ISM gas density, and LyC escape fraction and we provide estimates of these quantities for nine observed z > 6 galaxies. Finally, we demonstrate that [O I ] 63 μm can be used as a replacement for [C II ] 158 μm in high-redshift galaxies where [C II ] 158 μm is unobserved and argue that more observation time should be used to target [O I ] 63 μm at z > 6. Future simulations will be needed to self-consistently address the numerous uncertainties surrounding a varying IMF at high redshift and the associated metal returns.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5603-5622
Number of pages20
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number4
StatePublished - Mar 1 2022
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


  • Dark ages, reionization, first stars
  • Galaxies: High-redshift
  • Galaxies: ISM
  • Galaxies: Star formation
  • ISM: Kinematics and dynamics
  • ISM: Lines and bands


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