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    We present the spectroscopic confirmation of the brightest known gravitationally lensed Lyman-break galaxy in the Epoch of Reionization (EoR), A1703-zD1, through the detection of [C ii] 158 $\mu$m at a redshift of z = 6.8269 ± 0.0004. This source was selected behind the strong lensing cluster Abell 1703, with an intrinsic luminosity and a very blue Spitzer/Infrared Array Camera (IRAC) [3.6]–[4.5] colour, implying high equivalent width line emission of [O iii] + Hβ. [C ii] is reliably detected at 6.1σ cospatial with the rest-frame ultraviolet (UV) counterpart, showing similar spatial extent. Correcting for the lensing magnification, the [C ii] luminosity in A1703-zD1 is broadly consistent with the local $L_{\rm [C\, {\small II}]}$–star formation rate (SFR) relation. We find a clear velocity gradient of 103 ± 22 km $\rm s^{-1}$ across the source that possibly indicates rotation or an ongoing merger. We furthermore present spectral scans with no detected [C ii] above 4.6σ in two unlensed Lyman-break galaxies in the Extended Groth Strip (EGS)-Cosmic Assembly Near-infrared Deep Extragalactic Legacy Survey (CANDELS) field at z ∼ 6.6–6.9. This is the first time that the Northern Extended Millimeter Array (NOEMA) has been successfully used to observe [C ii] in a ‘normal’ star-forming galaxy at z > 6, and our results demonstrate its capability to complement the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) inmore »confirming galaxies in the EoR.

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    Before the end of the Epoch of Reionization, the Hydrogen in the Universe was predominantly neutral. This leads to a strong attenuation of Ly α lines of z ≳ 6 galaxies in the intergalactic medium. Nevertheless, Ly α has been detected up to very high redshifts (z ∼ 9) for several especially UV luminous galaxies. Here, we test to what extent the galaxy’s local environment might impact the Ly α transmission of such sources. We present an analysis of dedicated Hubble Space Telescope (HST) imaging in the CANDELS/EGS field to search for fainter neighbours around three of the most UV luminous and most distant spectroscopically confirmed Ly α emitters: EGS-zs8-1, EGS-zs8-2, and EGSY-z8p7 at zspec = 7.73, 7.48, and 8.68, respectively. We combine the multiwavelength HST imaging with Spitzer data to reliably select z ∼ 7–9 galaxies around the central, UV-luminous sources. In all cases, we find a clear enhancement of neighbouring galaxies compared to the expected number in a blank field (by a factor ∼3–9×). Our analysis thus reveals ubiquitous overdensities around luminous Ly α emitting sources in the heart of the cosmic reionization epoch. We show that our results are in excellent agreement with expectations from the Dragons simulation, confirming the theoretical predictionmore »that the first ionized bubbles preferentially formed in overdense regions. While three UV luminous galaxies already have spectroscopic redshifts, the majority of the remaining fainter, surrounding sources are yet to be confirmed via spectroscopy. JWST follow-up observations of the neighbouring galaxies identified here will thus be needed to confirm their physical association and to map out the ionized regions produced by these sources.

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