Detection of molecular gas in a distant submillimetre galaxy at z = 4.76 with Australia Telescope Compact Array

K. E.K. Coppin, S. C. Chapman, Ian Smail, A. M. Swinbank, F. Walter, J. L. Wardlow, A. Weiss, D. M. Alexander, W. N. Brandt, H. Dannerbauer, C. De Breuck, M. Dickinson, J. S. Dunlop, A. C. Edge, B. H.C. Emonts, T. R. Greve, M. Huynh, R. J. Ivison, K. K. Knudsen, K. M. MentenE. Schinnerer, P. P. van der Werf

Research output: Contribution to journalLetterpeer-review

61 Scopus citations


We have detected the CO(2-1) transition from the submillimetre galaxy (SMG) LESS J033229.4-275619 at z = 4.755 using the new Compact Array Broadband Backend system on the Australian Telescope Compact Array. These data have identified a massive gas reservoir available for star formation for the first time in an SMG at z ~ 5. We use the luminosity and velocity width (full width at half-maximum, FWHM, of ≈ 160 km s-1) of the CO(2-1) line emission to constrain the gas and dynamical mass of Mgas ≈1.6x 1010 M⊙ and Mdyn(<2kpc) ≈5x 1010 (0.25/sin2i)MQ, respectively, similar to that observed for SMGs at lower redshifts of z ~ 2-4, although we note that our observed CO FWHM is a factor of ~3 narrower than typically seen in SMGs. Together with the stellar mass we estimate a total baryonic mass of Mbary ≈1 × 1011 M⊙, consistent with the dynamical mass for this young galaxy within the uncertainties. Dynamical and baryonic mass limits of high-redshift galaxies are useful tests of galaxy formation models: using the known z ~ 4-5 SMGs as examples of massive baryonic systems, we find that their space density is consistent with that predicted by current galaxy formation models. In addition, these observations have helped to confirm that z ~ 4-5 SMGs possess the baryonic masses and gas consumption time-scales necessary to be the progenitors of the luminous old red galaxies seen at z ~ 3. Our results provide a preview of the science that ALMA will enable on the formation and evolution of the earliest massive galaxies in the Universe.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)L103-L107
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society: Letters
Issue number1
StatePublished - Sep 2010

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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