University of Hertfordshire

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Original languageEnglish
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Journal publication date20 Jul 2017
StatePublished - 20 Jul 2017


We present a new measurement of the evolving galaxy far-IR luminosity function (LF) extending out to redshifts z~5, with resulting implications for the level of dust-obscured star-formation density in the young Universe. To achieve this we have exploited recent advances in sub-mm/mm imaging with SCUBA-2 on the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope (JCMT) and the Atacama Large Millimeter/Submillimeter Array (ALMA), which together provide unconfused imaging with sufficient dynamic range to provide meaningful coverage of the luminosity-redshift plane out to z>4. Our results support previous indications that the faint-end slope of the far-IR LF is sufficiently flat that comoving luminosity-density is dominated by bright objects (~L*). However, we find that the number-density/luminosity of such sources at high redshifts has been severely over-estimated by studies that have attempted to push the highly-confused Herschel SPIRE surveys beyond z~2. Consequently we confirm recent reports that cosmic star-formation density is dominated by UV-visible star formation at z>4. Using both direct (1/Vmax) and maximum likelihood determinations of the LF, we find that its high-redshift evolution is well characterized by continued positive luminosity evolution coupled with negative density evolution (with increasing redshift). This explains why bright sub-mm sources continue to be found at z>5, even though their integrated contribution to cosmic star-formation density at such early times is very small. The evolution of the far-IR galaxy LF thus appears similar in form to that already established for active galactic nuclei, possibly reflecting a similar dependence on the growth of galaxy mass.


17 pages, 12 figures, 5 tables, submitted to MNRAS

ID: 12417824