UV-Continuum Slopes of >4000 z~4-8 Galaxies from the HUDF/XDF, HUDF09, ERS, CANDELS-South, and CANDELS-North Fields

Bouwens, R. J., Illingworth, G. D., Oesch, P. A., Labbe, I., van Dokkum, P. G., Trenti, M., Franx, M., Smit, R., Gonzalez, V., and Magee, D


We measure the UV-continuum slope beta for over 4000 high-redshift galaxies over a wide range of redshifts z~4-8 and luminosities from the HST HUDF/XDF, HUDF09-1, HUDF09-2, ERS, CANDELS-N, and CANDELS-S data sets. Our new beta results reach very faint levels at z~4 (-15.5 mag: 0.006 L*(z=3)), z~5 (-16.5 mag: 0.014L*(z=3)), and z~6 and z~7 (-17 mag: 0.025 L*(z=3)). Inconsistencies between previous studies led us to conduct a comprehensive review of systematic errors and develop a new technique for measuring beta that is robust against biases that arise from the impact of noise. We demonstrate, by object-by-object comparisons, that all previous studies, including our own and those done on the latest HUDF12 dataset, suffer from small systematic errors in beta. We find that after correcting for the systematic errors (typically d(beta) ~0.1-0.2) all beta results at z~7 from different groups are in excellent agreement. The mean beta we measure for faint (-18 mag: 0.1L*(z=3)) z~4, z~5, z~6, and z~7 galaxies is -2.03+/-0.03+/-0.06 (random and systematic errors), -2.14+/-0.06+/-0.06, -2.24+/-0.11+/-0.08, and -2.33+/-0.16+/-0.13, respectively. Our new beta values are redder than we have reported in the past, but bluer than other recent results. Our previously reported trend of bluer beta's at lower luminosities is confirmed, as is the evolution to bluer beta's at high redshifts. beta appears to show only a mild luminosity dependence faintward of M(UV,AB) ~ -19 mag, suggesting that the mean beta asymptotes to ~ -2.2 to -2.4 for faint z>~4 galaxies. At z~7, the observed beta's suggest non-zero, but low dust extinction, and they agree well with values predicted in cosmological hydrodynamical simulations.

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