Chaotic and Clumpy Galaxy Formation in an Extremely Massive Reionization-era Halo

Justin S. Spilker, Christopher C. Hayward, Daniel P. Marrone, Manuel Aravena, Matthieu Béthermin, James Burgoyne, Scott C. Chapman, Thomas R. Greve, Gayathri Gururajan, Yashar D. Hezaveh, Ryley Hill, Katrina C. Litke, Christopher C. Lovell, Matthew A. Malkan, Eric J. Murphy, Desika Narayanan, Kedar A. Phadke, Cassie Reuter, Antony A. Stark, Nikolaus SulzenauerJoaquin D. Vieira, David Vizgan, Axel Weiß

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Abstract: The SPT 0311–58 system at z = 6.900 is an extremely massive structure within the reionization epoch and offers a chance to understand the formation of galaxies at an extreme peak in the primordial density field. We present 70 mas Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array observations of the dust continuum and [C ii] 158 μm emission in the central pair of galaxies and reach physical resolutions of ∼100–350 pc, among the most detailed views of any reionization-era system to date. The observations resolve the source into at least a dozen kiloparsec-size clumps. The global kinematics and high turbulent velocity dispersion within the galaxies present a striking contrast to recent claims of dynamically cold thin-disk kinematics in some dusty galaxies just 800 Myr later at z ∼ 4. We speculate that both gravitational interactions and fragmentation from massive parent disks have likely played a role in the overall dynamics and formation of clumps in the system. Each clump individually is comparable in mass to other 6 < z < 8 galaxies identified in rest-UV/optical deep field surveys, but with star formation rates elevated by a factor of ~3-5. Internally, the clumps themselves bear close resemblance to greatly scaled-up versions of virialized cloud-scale structures identified in low-redshift galaxies. Our observations are qualitatively similar to the chaotic and clumpy assembly within massive halos seen in simulations of high-redshift galaxies.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberL3
Number of pages8
JournalAstrophysical Journal Letters
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 8 Apr 2022


  • 310
  • Galaxies and Cosmology
  • High-redshift galaxies
  • Starburst galaxies


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