CEERS Key Paper. I. An Early Look into the First 500 Myr of Galaxy Formation with JWST

CEERS, Stephen Wilkins, Darren J. Croton, Emanuele Daddi, Avishai Dekel, David Elbaz, Maximilien Franco, Eric Gawiser, Benne W. Holwerda, Marc Huertas-Company, Anne Jaskot, Gene Leung, Ray A. Lucas, Bahram Mobasher, Viraj Pandya, Sandro Tacchella, Benjamin J. Weiner, Jorge A. Zavala

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Abstract

We present an investigation into the first 500 Myr of galaxy evolution from the Cosmic Evolution Early Release Science (CEERS) survey. CEERS, one of 13 JWST ERS programs, targets galaxy formation from z ∼ 0.5 to >10 using several imaging and spectroscopic modes. We make use of the first epoch of CEERS NIRCam imaging, spanning 35.5 arcmin 2, to search for candidate galaxies at z > 9. Following a detailed data reduction process implementing several custom steps to produce high-quality reduced images, we perform multiband photometry across seven NIRCam broad- and medium-band (and six Hubble broadband) filters focusing on robust colors and accurate total fluxes. We measure photometric redshifts and devise a robust set of selection criteria to identify a sample of 26 galaxy candidates at z ∼ 9-16. These objects are compact with a median half-light radius of ∼0.5 kpc. We present an early estimate of the z ∼ 11 rest-frame ultraviolet (UV) luminosity function, finding that the number density of galaxies at M UV ∼ −20 appears to evolve very little from z ∼ 9 to 11. We also find that the abundance (surface density [arcmin −2]) of our candidates exceeds nearly all theoretical predictions. We explore potential implications, including that at z > 10, star formation may be dominated by top-heavy initial mass functions, which would result in an increased ratio of UV light per unit halo mass, though a complete lack of dust attenuation and/or changing star formation physics may also play a role. While spectroscopic confirmation of these sources is urgently required, our results suggest that the deeper views to come with JWST should yield prolific samples of ultrahigh-redshift galaxies with which to further explore these conclusions.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberL13
JournalThe Astrophysical Journal Letters
Volume946
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 27 Mar 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We acknowledge that the location where this work took place, the University of Texas at Austin, sits on indigenous land. The Tonkawa lived in central Texas, and the Comanche and Apache moved through this area. We pay our respects to all of the American Indian and indigenous peoples and communities who have been or have become a part of these lands and territories in Texas on this piece of Turtle Island. We acknowledge support from NASA through STScI ERS award JWST-ERS-1345. We thank Marcia Rieke, Daniel Schaerer, Volker Bromm, and Mike Boylan-Kolchin for helpful conversations. Some/all of the data presented in this paper were obtained from the Mikulski Archive for Space Telescopes (MAST) at the Space Telescope Science Institute. The specific observations analyzed can be accessed via 10.17909/z7p0-8481.

Some/all of the data presented in this paper were obtained from the Mikulski Archive for Space Telescopes (MAST)at the Space Telescope Science Institute. The specific observations analyzed can be accessed via10.17909/ z7p0-8481.

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