The Most Luminous z~9-10 Galaxy Candidates yet Found: The Luminosity Function, Cosmic Star-Formation Rate, and the First Mass Density Estimate at 500 Myr

P. A. Oesch (UCSC), R. J. Bouwens (Leiden), G. D. Illingworth (UCSC), I. Labbe (Leiden), R. Smit (Leiden), P. G. van Dokkum (Yale), I. Momcheva (Yale), M. L. N. Ashby (Harvard), G. G. Fazio (Harvard), J. Huang (Harvard), S. P. Willner (Harvard), V. Gonzalez (UCR), D. Magee (UCSC), M. Trenti (Cambridge), G. B. Brammer (STScI), R. E. Skelton (SAAO), L. R. Spitler (Macquarie)


We present the discovery of four surprisingly bright (H_160 ~ 26 - 27 mag AB) galaxy candidates at z~9-10 in the complete HST CANDELS WFC3/IR GOODS-N imaging data, doubling the number of z~10 galaxy candidates that are known, just ~500 Myr after the Big Bang. Two similarly bright sources are also detected in a systematic re-analysis of the GOODS-S data set. Three of the four galaxies in GOODS-N are significantly detected at 4.5-6.2sigma in the very deep Spitzer/IRAC 4.5 micron data, as is one of the GOODS-S candidates. Furthermore, the brightest of our candidates (at z=10.2+-0.4) is robustly detected also at 3.6 micron (6.9sigma), revealing a flat UV spectral energy distribution with a slope beta=-2.0+-0.2, consistent with demonstrated trends with luminosity at high redshift. The abundance of such luminous candidates suggests that the luminosity function evolves more significantly in phi_* than in L_* at z>~8 with a higher number density of bright sources than previously expected. Despite the discovery of these luminous candidates, the cosmic star formation rate density for galaxies with SFR >0.7 M_sun/yr shows an order-of-magnitude increase in only 170 Myr from z ~ 10 to z ~ 8, consistent with previous results. Based on the IRAC detections, we derive galaxy stellar masses at z~10, finding that these luminous objects are typically 10^9 M_sun. The cosmic stellar mass density at z~10 is log10 rho_* = 4.7^+0.5_-0.8 M_sun Mpc^-3 for galaxies brighter than M_UV~-18. The remarkable brightness, and hence luminosity, of these z~9-10 candidates highlights the opportunity for deep spectroscopy to determine their redshift and nature, demonstrates the value of additional search fields covering a wider area to understand star-formation in the very early universe, and highlights the opportunities for JWST to map the buildup of galaxies at redshifts much earlier than z~10.

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