On the reliability of CIV 1549 as an abundance indicator for high redshift star-forming galaxies
P.A. Crowther (2), R.K. Prinja (1), M. Pettini (3), C.C. Steidel (4)
1: Sheffield, 2: UCL, 3: Cambridge, 4: Caltech
We reconsider the use of the equivalent width of CIV 1549, EW(CIV), as an indicator of the oxygen abundance in star-forming galaxies, as proposed by Heckman et al. for nearby starbursts. We refine the local calibration of EW(CIV) vs. log (O/H) by using a restricted wavelength window which minimises blending with interstellar absorption lines. When applied to the stellar component only of the complex CIV 1549 features in two high redshift galaxies with good quality spectra, MS1512-cB58 (z = 2.7268) and Q1307-BM1163 (z = 1.4105), the local calibration gives values of the oxygen abundance which are in good agreement with other metallicity determinations based on nebular emission and interstellar absorption lines. Our main conclusion is that for this method to give reliable results at high redshifts, it should only be used on data of sufficiently high spectral resolution (R > 1000) for stellar and interstellar CIV components to be clearly separated. Oxygen abundances will be systematically overestimated if the local calibration is applied to spectra of high-z galaxies obtained with the low resolving powers (R ~ 200-300) of many current wide field surveys. It will also be necessary to understand better the causes of the scatter in the local relation, before we can be confident of inferences from it at high z.
Reference: MNRAS in press
Status: Manuscript has been accepted