Journal Article

Star formation history up to <i>z</i>= 7.4: implications for gamma-ray bursts and cosmic metallicity evolution

Li-Xin Li

in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

Published on behalf of The Royal Astronomical Society

Volume 388, issue 4, pages 1487-1500
Published in print August 2008 | ISSN: 0035-8711
Published online August 2008 | e-ISSN: 1365-2966 | DOI:
Star formation history up to z= 7.4: implications for gamma-ray bursts and cosmic metallicity evolution

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The current Swift sample of gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) with measured redshifts allows us to test the assumption that GRBs trace star formation in the Universe. Some authors have claimed that the rate of GRBs increases with cosmic redshift faster than the star formation rate, whose cause is not yet known. In this paper, I investigate the possibility of interpreting the observed discrepancy between the GRB rate history and the star formation rate history using cosmic metallicity evolution. I am motivated by the observation that cosmic metallicity evolves with redshift and GRBs tend to occur in low-metallicity galaxies. First, I derive a star formation history up to redshift z= 7.4 from an updated sample of star formation rate densities. This is obtained by adding the new ultraviolet measurements of Bouwens et al. and the new ultraviolet and infrared measurements of Reddy et al. to the existing sample compiled by Hopkins & Beacom. Then, adopting a simple model for the relation between GRB production and the cosmic metallicity history as proposed by Langer & Norman, I show that the observed redshift distribution of the Swift GRBs can be reproduced with good accuracy. Although the results are limited by the small size of the GRB sample and the poorly understood selection biases in detection and localization of GRBs and in redshift determination, they suggest that GRBs trace both star formation and metallicity evolution. If the star formation history can be accurately measured with other approaches, which is presumably achievable in the near future, it will be possible to determine the cosmic metallicity evolution using the study of the redshift distribution of GRBs.

Keywords: galaxies: evolution; galaxies: high-redshift; galaxies: starburst; cosmology: observations; gamma-rays: bursts

Journal Article.  11493 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Astronomy and Astrophysics

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