The [CII] emission as a molecular gas mass tracer in galaxies at low and high redshifts

A. Zanella, E. Daddi, G. Magdis, T. Diaz Santos, D. Cormier, D. Liu, A. Cibinel, RAPHAEL ALEXANDRE SIMON GOBAT , M. Dickinson, M. Sargent, G. Popping, S. C. Madden, M. Bethermin, T. M. Hughes, F. Valentino, W. Rujopakarn, M. Pannella, F. Bournaud, F. Walter, T. WangD. Elbaz, R. T. Coogan

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41 Scopus citations


We present ALMA Band 9 observations of the [CII]158 μm emission for a sample of 10 mainsequence galaxies at redshift z ~ 2, with typical stellar masses (logM*/M ~ 10.0-10.9) and star formation rates (~35-115 M yr-1). Given the strong and well-understood evolution of the interstellar medium from the present to z = 2, we investigate the behaviour of the [CII] emission and empirically identify its primary driver. We detect [C II] from six galaxies (four secure and two tentative) and estimate ensemble averages including non-detections. The [C II]- to-infrared luminosity ratio (L[C II]/LIR) of our sample is similar to that of local main-sequence galaxies (~2 × 10-3), and ~10 times higher than that of starbursts. The [CII] emission has an average spatial extent of 4-7 kpc, consistent with the optical size. Complementing our sample with literature data, we find that the [CII] luminosity correlates with galaxies' molecular gas mass, with a mean absolute deviation of 0.2 dex and without evident systematics: the [CII]- to-H2 conversion factor (α[C II] ~ 30 M/L) is largely independent of galaxies' depletion time, metallicity, and redshift. [C II] seems therefore a convenient tracer to estimate galaxies' molecular gas content regardless of their starburst or main-sequence nature, and extending to metal-poor galaxies at low and high redshifts. The dearth of [C II] emission reported for z > 6-7 galaxies might suggest either a high star formation efficiency or a small fraction of ultraviolet light from star formation reprocessed by dust.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1976-1999
Number of pages24
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2018


  • Galaxies: evolution
  • Galaxies: high redshift
  • Galaxies: ISM-galaxies: star formation
  • Galaxies: starburst
  • Submillimetre: galaxies

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