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An ALMA/NOEMA survey of the molecular gas properties of high-redshift star-forming galaxies

Birkin, Jack E; Weiss, Axel; Wardlow, JL; Smail, Ian; Swinbank, AM; Dudzevičiūtė, U; An, Fang Xia; Ao, Y; Chapman, SC; Chen, Chian-Chou; da Cunha, E; Dannerbauer, H; Gullberg, B; Hodge, JA; Ikarashi, S; Ivison, RJ; Matsuda, Y; Stach, SM; Walter, F; Wang, W-H; van der Werf, P

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Jack Birkin
PGR Student Doctor of Philosophy

Axel Weiss

JL Wardlow

Fang Xia An

Y Ao

SC Chapman

Chian-Chou Chen

E da Cunha

H Dannerbauer

B Gullberg

JA Hodge

S Ikarashi

RJ Ivison

Y Matsuda

SM Stach

F Walter

W-H Wang

P van der Werf


We have used ALMA and NOEMA to study the molecular gas reservoirs in 61 ALMA-identified submillimetre galaxies (SMGs) in the COSMOS, UDS, and ECDFS fields. We detect 12CO (⁠Jup= 2–5) emission lines in 50 sources, and [C I](3P1 − 3P0) emission in eight, at z= 1.2–4.8 and with a median redshift of 2.9 ± 0.2. By supplementing our data with literature sources, we construct a statistical CO spectral line energy distribution and find that the 12CO line luminosities in SMGs peak at Jup ∼ 6, consistent with similar studies. We also test the correlations of the CO, [C I], and dust as tracers of the gas mass, finding the three to correlate well, although the CO and dust mass as estimated from the 3-mm continuum are preferable. We estimate that SMGs lie mostly on or just above the star-forming main sequence, with a median gas depletion timescale, tdep = Mgas/SFR, of 210 ± 40 Myr for our sample. Additionally, tdep declines with redshift across z ∼ 1–5, while the molecular gas fraction, μgas = Mgas/M*, increases across the same redshift range. Finally, we demonstrate that the distribution of total baryonic mass and dynamical line width, Mbaryon–σ, for our SMGs is consistent with that followed by early-type galaxies in the Coma cluster, providing strong support to the suggestion that SMGs are progenitors of massive local spheroidal galaxies. On the basis of this, we suggest that the SMG populations above and below an 870-μm flux limit of S870 ∼ 5 mJy may correspond to the division between slow and fast rotators seen in local early-type galaxies.


Birkin, J. E., Weiss, A., Wardlow, J., Smail, I., Swinbank, A., Dudzevičiūtė, U., …van der Werf, P. (2021). An ALMA/NOEMA survey of the molecular gas properties of high-redshift star-forming galaxies. Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 501(3), 3926-3950.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Dec 4, 2021
Online Publication Date Dec 17, 2021
Publication Date 2021-03
Deposit Date Apr 8, 2021
Publicly Available Date Apr 8, 2021
Journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Print ISSN 0035-8711
Electronic ISSN 1365-2966
Publisher Royal Astronomical Society
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 501
Issue 3
Pages 3926-3950
Public URL


Published Journal Article (4.6 Mb)

Copyright Statement
This article has been accepted for publication in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society ©: 2020. The Authors. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Royal Astronomical Society. All rights reserved.

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