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Title: Measuring the H i Content of Individual Galaxies Out to the Epoch of Reionization with [C ii]
Abstract The H i gas content is a key ingredient in galaxy evolution, the study of which has been limited to moderate cosmological distances for individual galaxies due to the weakness of the hyperfine H i 21 cm transition. Here we present a new approach that allows us to infer the H i gas mass M HI of individual galaxies up to z ≈ 6, based on a direct measurement of the [C ii ]-to-H i conversion factor in star-forming galaxies at z ≳ 2 using γ -ray burst afterglows. By compiling recent [C ii ]-158 μ m emission line measurements we quantify the evolution of the H i content in galaxies through cosmic time. We find that M HI starts to exceed the stellar mass M ⋆ at z ≳ 1, and increases as a function of redshift. The H i fraction of the total baryonic mass increases from around 20% at z = 0 to about 60% at z ∼ 6. We further uncover a universal relation between the H i gas fraction M HI / M ⋆ and the gas-phase metallicity, which seems to hold from z ≈ 6 to z = 0. The majority of galaxies at z > 2 are observed to have H i depletion times, t dep,HI = M HI /SFR, less than ≈2 Gyr, substantially shorter than for z ∼ 0 galaxies. Finally, we use the [C ii ]-to-H i conversion factor to determine the cosmic mass density of H i in galaxies, ρ HI , at three distinct epochs: z ≈ 0, z ≈ 2, and z ∼ 4–6. These measurements are consistent with previous estimates based on 21 cm H i observations in the local universe and with damped Ly α absorbers (DLAs) at z ≳ 2, suggesting an overall decrease by a factor of ≈5 in ρ HI ( z ) from the end of the reionization epoch to the present.  more » « less
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The Astrophysical Journal
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National Science Foundation
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