Large-scale excess H I absorption around z ≈ 4 galaxies detected in a background galaxy spectrum in the MUSE eXtremely deep field

Jorryt Matthee*, Christopher Golling, Ruari Mackenzie, Gabriele Pezzulli, Simon Lilly, Joop Schaye, Roland Bacon, Haruka Kusakabe, Tanya Urrutia, Leindert Boogaard, Jarle Brinchmann, Michael V. Maseda, Thibault Garel, Nicolas F. Bouché, Lutz Wisotzki

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Observationally mapping the relation between galaxies and the intergalactic medium (IGM) is of key interest for studies of cosmic reionization. Diffuse hydrogen gas has typically been observed in H I Lyman-α (Lyα) absorption in the spectra of bright background quasars. However, it is important to extend these measurements to background galaxies as quasars become increasingly rare at high redshift and rarely probe closely separated sight lines. Here, we use deep integral field spectroscopy in the MUSE eXtremely Deep Field to demonstrate the measurement of the Lyα transmission at z ≈ 4 in absorption to a background galaxy at z = 4.77. The H I transmission is consistent with independent quasar sight lines at similar redshifts. Exploiting the high number of spectroscopic redshifts of faint galaxies (500 between z = 4.0–4.7 within a radius of 8 arcmin) that are tracers of the density field, we show that Lyα transmission is inversely correlated with galaxy density, i.e. transparent regions in the Lyα forest mark underdense regions at z ≈ 4. Due to large-scale clustering, galaxies are surrounded by excess H I absorption over the cosmic mean out to 4 cMpc/h70. We also find that redshifts from the peak of the Lyα line are typically offset from the systemic redshift by +170 km s−1. This work extends results from z ≈ 2–3 to higher redshifts and demonstrates the power of deep integral field spectroscopy to simultaneously measure the ionization structure of the IGM and the large-scale density field in the early Universe.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2794-2806
Number of pages13
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1-Apr-2024


  • cosmology: observations
  • galaxies: high-redshift
  • intergalactic medium

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