A New Z=0 Metagalactic Ultraviolet Background Limit




Adams, Joshua J.
Uson, Juan M.
Hill, Gary J.
MacQueen, Phillip J.

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We present new integral-field spectroscopy in the outskirts of two nearby, edge-on, late-type galaxies to search for the H alpha emission that is expected from the exposure of their hydrogen gas to the metagalactic ultraviolet background (UVB). Despite the sensitivity of the VIRUS-P spectrograph on the McDonald 2.7 m telescope to low surface brightness emission and the large field of view, we do not detect H alpha to 5 sigma upper limits of 6.4 x 10(-19) erg s(-1) cm(-2) arcsec(-2) in UGC 7321 and of 25 x 10(-19) erg s(-1) cm(-2) arcsec(-2) in UGC 1281 in each of the hundreds of independent spatial elements (fibers). We fit gas distribution models from overlapping 21 cm data of HI, extrapolate one scale length beyond the HI data, and estimate predicted H alpha surface brightness maps. We analyze three types of limits from the data with stacks formed from increasingly large spatial regions and compare to the model predictions: (1) single fibers, (2) convolution of the fiber grid with a Gaussian, circular kernel (10('') full width at half-maximum), and (3) the co-added spectra from a few hundred fibers over the brightest model regions. None of these methods produce a significant detection (>5 sigma) with the most stringent constraints on the Hi photoionization rate of Gamma(z = 0) < 1.7 x 10(-14) s(-1) in UGC 7321 and Gamma(z = 0) < 14 x 10(-14) s(-1) in UGC 1281. The UGC 7321 limit is below previous measurement limits and also below current theoretical models. Restricting the analysis to the fibers bound by the HI data leads to a comparable limit; the limit is Gamma(z = 0) < 2.3 x 10(-14) s(-1) in UGC 7321. We discuss how a low Lyman limit escape fraction in z similar to 0 redshift star-forming galaxies might explain this lower than predicted UVB strength and the prospects of deeper data to make a direct detection.


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Adams, Joshua J., Juan M. Uson, Gary J. Hill, and Phillip J. MacQueen. "A new z= 0 metagalactic ultraviolet background limit." The Astrophysical Journal, Vol. 728, No. 2 (Feb., 2011): 107.