Ubiquitous Molecular Outflows in z > 4 Massive, Dusty Galaxies. I. Sample Overview and Clumpy Structure in Molecular Outflows on 500 pc Scales

Justin S. Spilker, Kedar A. Phadke, Manuel Aravena, Matthieu Béthermin, Scott C. Chapman, Chenxing Dong, Anthony H. Gonzalez, Christopher C. Hayward, Yashar D. Hezaveh, Sreevani Jarugula, Katrina C. Litke, Matthew A. Malkan, Daniel P. Marrone, Desika Narayanan, Cassie Reuter, Joaquin D. Vieira, Axel Weiss

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Massive galaxy-scale outflows of gas are one of the most commonly invoked mechanisms to regulate the growth and evolution of galaxies throughout the universe. While the gas in outflows spans a large range of temperatures and densities, the cold molecular phase is of particular interest because molecular outflows may be capable of suppressing star formation in galaxies by removing the star-forming gas. We have conducted the first survey of molecular outflows at z > 4, targeting 11 strongly lensed dusty, star-forming galaxies (DSFGs) with high-resolution Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array observations of OH 119 μm absorption as an outflow tracer. In this first paper, we give an overview of the survey, focusing on the detection rate and structure of molecular outflows. We find unambiguous evidence for outflows in 8/11 galaxies (73%), more than tripling the number known at z > 4. This implies that molecular winds in z > 4 DSFGs must have both a near-unity occurrence rate and large opening angles to be detectable in absorption. Lensing reconstructions reveal that 500 pc scale clumpy structures in the outflows are common. The individual clumps are not directly resolved, but from optical depth arguments we expect that future observations will require 50-200 pc spatial resolution to resolve them. We do not detect high-velocity [C ii] wings in any of the sources with clear OH outflows, indicating that [C ii] is not a reliable tracer of molecular outflows. Our results represent a first step toward characterizing molecular outflows at z > 4 at the population level, demonstrating that large-scale outflows are ubiquitous among early massive, dusty galaxies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number85
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 16 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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