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Continuum subtracting Lyman-alpha images: Low redshift studies using the Solar Blind Channel of HST/ACS

  • Hayes, Matthew
  • Ostlin, Goran
  • Mas-Hesse, J. Miguel
  • Kunth, Daniel
Publication Date
Jul 30, 2009
Submission Date
Mar 07, 2008
DOI: 10.1088/0004-6256/138/3/911
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[ABRIDGED] We are undertaking an imaging study of local star-forming galaxies in the Lyman-alpha (Lya) emission line using the Solar Blind Channel (SBC) of the ACS onboard the HST. Observations have been obtained in Lya and H-alpha (Ha) and 6 continuum filters between ~1500AA and the I-band. Previously (Hayes et al 2005) we demonstrated that the production of Lya line-only images in the SBC-only data-set is non-trivial and that supporting data is a requirement. We here develop various methods of continuum subtraction and assess their relative performance using a variety of spectral energy distributions (SED) as input. We conclude that simple assumptions about the behavior of the ultraviolet continuum consistently lead to results that are wildly erroneous, and determine that an SED fitting approach is essential. Moreover, a single component stellar or stellar+nebular spectrum is not always sufficient for realistic template SEDs and, in order to successfully recover the input observables, care must be taken to control contributions of nebular gas and underlying stellar populations. Independent measurements of the metallicity must first be obtained, but details of the initial mass function play only a small role. We identify the need to bin together pixels in our data to obtain signal-to-noise (S/N) of ~10 in each band before processing. At S/N=10 we can recover Lya fluxes accurate to ~30% for Lya lines with intrinsic equivalent width [W(Lya)] of 10AA. This accuracy improves to ~10% for W(Lya)=100AA. We describe the image processing applied to the observations presented in \"Ostlin et al. (2009) and the associated data-release. We also present simulations for an observing strategy for an alternative low-redshift SBC Lya imaging campaign using adjacent combinations of long-pass filters at slightly higher redshift.

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