Low Masses and High Redshifts: The Evolution of the Mass-Metallicity Relation

October 2013 • 2013ApJ...776L..27H

Authors • Henry, Alaina • Scarlata, Claudia • Domínguez, Alberto • Malkan, Matthew • Martin, Crystal L. • Siana, Brian • Atek, Hakim • Bedregal, Alejandro G. • Colbert, James W. • Rafelski, Marc • Ross, Nathaniel • Teplitz, Harry • Bunker, Andrew J. • Dressler, Alan • Hathi, Nimish • Masters, Daniel • McCarthy, Patrick • Straughn, Amber

Abstract • We present the first robust measurement of the high redshift mass-metallicity (MZ) relation at 108 <~ M/M <~ 1010, obtained by stacking spectra of 83 emission-line galaxies with secure redshifts between 1.3 <~ z <~ 2.3. For these redshifts, infrared grism spectroscopy with the Hubble Space Telescope Wide Field Camera 3 is sensitive to the R 23 metallicity diagnostic: ([O II] λλ3726, 3729 + [O III] λλ4959, 5007)/Hβ. Using spectra stacked in four mass quartiles, we find a MZ relation that declines significantly with decreasing mass, extending from 12+log(O/H) = 8.8 at M = 109.8 M , to 12+log(O/H) = 8.2 at M = 108.2 M . After correcting for systematic offsets between metallicity indicators, we compare our MZ relation to measurements from the stacked spectra of galaxies with M >~ 109.5 M and z ~ 2.3. Within the statistical uncertainties, our MZ relation agrees with the z ~ 2.3 result, particularly since our somewhat higher metallicities (by around 0.1 dex) are qualitatively consistent with the lower mean redshift (z = 1.76) of our sample. For the masses probed by our data, the MZ relation shows a steep slope which is suggestive of feedback from energy-driven winds, and a cosmological downsizing evolution where high mass galaxies reach the local MZ relation at earlier times. In addition, we show that our sample falls on an extrapolation of the star-forming main sequence (the SFR-M * relation) at this redshift. This result indicates that grism emission-line selected samples do not have preferentially high star formation rates (SFRs). Finally, we report no evidence for evolution of the mass-metallicity-SFR plane; our stack-averaged measurements show excellent agreement with the local relation.

Based on observations made with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, which is operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc., under NASA contract NAS 5-26555.


IPAC Authors

James Colbert

Associate Scientist


Elise Furlan

Associate Scientist

Daniel Masters

Assistant Scientist


Harry Teplitz

Senior Scientist