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Title: The Lyman Continuum Escape Survey: Connecting Time-dependent [O iii] and [O ii] Line Emission with Lyman Continuum Escape Fraction in Simulations of Galaxy Formation
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The Astrophysical Journal
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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    The ionizing photon escape fraction [Lyman continuum (LyC) fesc] of star-forming galaxies is the single greatest unknown in the reionization budget. Stochastic sightline effects prohibit the direct separation of LyC leakers from non-leakers at significant redshifts. Here we circumvent this uncertainty by inferring fesc using resolved (R > 4000) Lyman α (Lyα) profiles from the X-SHOOTER Lyα survey at z = 2 (XLS-z2). With empirically motivated criteria, we use Lyα profiles to select leakers ($f_{\mathrm{ esc}} > 20{{\ \rm per\ cent}}$) and non-leakers ($f_{\mathrm{ esc}} < 5{{\ \rm per\ cent}}$) from a representative sample of >0.2L* Lyman α emitters (LAEs). We use median stacked spectra of these subsets over λrest ≈ 1000–8000 Å to investigate the conditions for LyC fesc. Our stacks show similar mass, metallicity, MUV, and βUV. We find the following differences between leakers versus non-leakers: (i) strong nebular C iv and He ii emission versus non-detections; (ii) [O iii]/[O ii] ≈ 8.5 versus ≈3; (iii) Hα/Hβ indicating no dust versus E(B − V) ≈ 0.3; (iv) Mg ii emission close to the systemic velocity versus redshifted, optically thick Mg ii; and (v) Lyα fesc of ${\approx} 50{{\ \rm per\ cent}}$ versus ${\approx} 10{{\ \rm per\ cent}}$. The extreme equivalent widths (EWs) in leakers ([O iii]+$\mathrm{ H}\beta \approx 1100$ Å rest frame) constrain the characteristic time-scale of LyC escape to ≈3–10 Myr bursts when short-lived stars with the hardest ionizing spectra shine. The defining traits of leakers – extremely ionizing stellar populations, low column densities, a dust-free, high-ionization state interstellar medium (ISM) – occur simultaneously in the $f_{\rm esc} > 20{{\ \rm per\ cent}}$ stack, suggesting they are causally connected, and motivating why indicators like [O iii]/[O ii] may suffice to constrain fesc at z > 6 with the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). The leakers comprise half of our sample, have a median LyC$f_{\rm esc} \approx 50{{\ \rm per\ cent}}$ (conservative range: $20\!-\!55{{\ \rm per\ cent}}$), and an ionizing production efficiency $\log ({\xi _{\rm {ion}}/\rm {Hz\ erg^{-1}}})\approx 25.9$ (conservative range: 25.7–25.9). These results show LAEs – the type of galaxies rare at z ≈ 2, but that become the norm at higher redshift – are highly efficient ionizers, with extreme ξion and prolific fesc occurring in sync.

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