ALMA Reveals a Stable Rotating Gas Disk in a Paradoxical Low-mass, Ultradusty Galaxy at z = 4.274

Research output: Contribution to journalLetterResearchpeer-review


  • Alexandra Pope
  • Jed McKinney
  • Patrick Kamieneski
  • Andrew Battisti
  • Itziar Aretxaga
  • Brammer, Gabriel
  • Jose M. Diego
  • David H. Hughes
  • Erica Keller
  • Danilo Marchesini
  • Andrew Mizener
  • Alfredo Montaña
  • Eric Murphy
  • Katherine E. Whitaker
  • Grant Wilson
  • Min Yun

We report ALMA detections of [C ii] and a dust continuum in Az9, a multiply imaged galaxy behind the Frontier Field cluster MACS J0717.5+3745. The bright [C ii] emission line provides a spectroscopic redshift of z = 4.274. This strongly lensed (μ = 7 ± 1) galaxy has an intrinsic stellar mass of only 2 × 109 M and a total star formation rate of 26 M yr−1 (∼80% of which is dust-obscured). Using public magnification maps, we reconstruct the [C ii] emission in the source plane to reveal a stable, rotation-dominated disk with V/σ = 5.3, which is >2× higher than predicted from simulations for similarly high-redshift, low-mass galaxies. In the source plane, the [C ii] disk has a half-light radius of 1.8 kpc and, along with the dust, is spatially offset from the peak of the stellar light by 1.4 kpc. Az9 is not deficient in [C ii]; L [C II]/L IR = 0.0027, consistent with local and high-redshift normal star-forming galaxies. While dust-obscured star formation is expected to dominate in higher-mass galaxies, such a large reservoir of dust and gas in a lower-mass disk galaxy 1.4 Gyr after the Big Bang challenges our picture of early galaxy evolution. Furthermore, the prevalence of such low-mass dusty galaxies has important implications for the selection of the highest-redshift dropout galaxies with JWST. As one of the lowest stellar mass galaxies at z > 4 to be detected in a dust continuum and [C ii], Az9 is an excellent laboratory in which to study early dust enrichment in the interstellar medium.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberL46
JournalAstrophysical Journal Letters
Issue number2
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2023

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© 2023. The Author(s). Published by the American Astronomical Society.

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