Predicting Lyα Emission from Galaxies via Empirical Markers of Production and Escape in the KBSS

Ryan F. Trainor, Allison L. Strom, Charles C. Steidel, Gwen C. Rudie, Yuguang Chen, Rachel L. Theios

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Lyα emission is widely used to detect and confirm high-redshift galaxies and characterize the evolution of the intergalactic medium (IGM). However, many galaxies do not display Lyα emission in typical spectroscopic observations, and intrinsic Lyα emitters represent a potentially biased set of high-redshift galaxies. In this work, we analyze a set of 703 galaxies at 2 ≲ z ≲ 3 with both Lyα spectroscopy and measurements of other rest-frame ultraviolet and optical properties in order to develop an empirical model for Lyα emission from galaxies and understand how the probability of Lyα emission depends on other observables. We consider several empirical proxies for the efficiency of Lyα photon production, as well as the subsequent escape of these photons through their local interstellar medium. We find that the equivalent width of metal-line absorption and the O3 ratio of rest-frame optical nebular lines are advantageous empirical proxies for Lyα escape and production, respectively. We develop a new quantity, XLIS O3, that combines these two properties into a single predictor of net Lyα emission, which we find describes ∼90% of the observed variance in Lyα equivalent width when accounting for our observational uncertainties. We also construct conditional probability distributions demonstrating that galaxy selection based on measurements of galaxy properties yield samples of galaxies with widely varying probabilities of net Lyα emission. The application of the empirical models and probability distributions described here may be used to infer the selection biases of current galaxy surveys and evaluate the significance of high-redshift Lyα (non)detections in studies of reionization and the IGM.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number85
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 10 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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