On the Escape of Lyman Radiation from Local Galaxies

University dissertation from Uppsala : Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis

Abstract: Cosmic reionization was most likely initiated by star forming dwarf galaxies. Little is known about the physical mechanisms allowing ionizing Lyman continuum (LyC) photons to escape from galaxies, but to learn more we can study local galaxies in detail. Until now, there has however only been one claim of a local LyC leaking galaxy, the disputed case of Haro 11.The lack of local detections could in part be a combined effect of technical problems and search strategies. Re-examining the FUSE (Far Ultraviolet Spectroscopic Explorer) data of Haro 11 led us to develop a new model for the spectral reduction, by which we could confirm an escape fraction of LyC photons (fesc) of 3.3±0.7%. In addition, eight more galaxies from the FUSE archive were examined leading to a new detection, Tol 1247-232, with fesc = 2.4±0.5%. The low value derived from the stacked spectrum of the whole sample, fesc = 1.4±0.4%, could be an indication of an evolving fesc scenario and/or an effect of probing the wrong targets.Local LyC candidates are normally selected among starburst galaxies with high equivalent widths in H?. This can however give preference to ionization bounded H II regions with low escape fractions. In an attempt to overcome this selection bias, we developed a novel method to select LyC leaking galaxies. The selection is based on a blue continuum and weak emission lines, properties that in combination can be explained only by models with very high fesc. Using these criteria, we selected a sample of leaking candidates at z?0.03 to be observed in H? and Johnson B filters. The sample galaxies have properties that strongly favour leakage. Among these are clear signs of mergers and interaction with neighbouring galaxies, off-centre major star forming regions and spectral properties indicating previous starburst activity.The Lyman-alpha (Ly?) line is often used as a tracer for the distant galaxies believed to have reionized the universe. Here, for the first time local face-on spiral galaxies are studied in Ly? imaging. All three galaxies are emitting Ly? photons in the polar direction far out in the spiral arms, in clear contrast to previously studied irregular galaxies where strong emission is seen from the nuclei. If the small sample studied here is representative, it will have implications for detecting Ly? galaxies at high redshifts as it would depend strongly on the viewing angle.