The MOSDEF Survey: Direct-Method Metallicities and ISM Conditions at $z\sim1.5-3.5$

26 Oct 2019  ·  Sanders Ryan L., Shapley Alice E., Reddy Naveen A., Kriek Mariska, Siana Brian, Coil Alison L., Mobasher Bahram, Shivaei Irene, Freeman William R., Azadi Mojegan, Price Sedona H., Leung Gene, Fetherolf Tara, de Groot Laura, Zick Tom, Fornasini Francesca M., Barro Guillermo ·

We present detections of [OIII]$\lambda$4363 and direct-method metallicities for star-forming galaxies at $z=1.7-3.6$. We combine new measurements from the MOSFIRE Deep Evolution Field (MOSDEF) survey with literature sources to construct a sample of 18 galaxies with direct-method metallicities at $z>1$, spanning $7.5<1$2+log(O/H$)<8.2$ and log(M$_*$/M$_{\odot})=7-10$... We find that strong-line calibrations based on local analogs of high-redshift galaxies reliably reproduce the metallicity of the $z>1$ sample on average. We construct the first mass-metallicity relation at $z>1$ based purely on direct-method O/H, finding a slope that is consistent with strong-line results. Direct-method O/H evolves by $\lesssim0.1$ dex at fixed M$_*$ and SFR from $z\sim0-2.2$. We employ photoionization models to constrain the ionization parameter and ionizing spectrum in the high-redshift sample. Stellar models with super-solar O/Fe and binary evolution of massive stars are required to reproduce the observed strong-line ratios. We find that the $z>1$ sample falls on the $z\sim0$ relation between ionization parameter and O/H, suggesting no evolution of this relation from $z\sim0$ to $z\sim2$. These results suggest that the offset of the strong-line ratios of this sample from local excitation sequences is driven primarily by a harder ionizing spectrum at fixed nebular metallicity compared to what is typical at $z\sim0$, naturally explained by super-solar O/Fe at high redshift caused by rapid formation timescales. Given the extreme nature of our $z>1$ sample, the implications for representative $z\sim2$ galaxy samples at $\sim10^{10}$ M$_{\odot}$ are unclear, but similarities to $z>6$ galaxies suggest that these conclusions can be extended to galaxies in the epoch of reionization. read more

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Astrophysics of Galaxies