Presentation #303.06 in the session Stellar Evolution, Stellar Population I.
Spectroscopic studies of extreme-ionization galaxies (EIGs) are critical to our understanding of exotic systems throughout cosmic time. These EIGs exhibit spectral features requiring >54.42 eV photons: the energy needed to fully ionize helium into He2+ and emit He II recombination lines. They are likely key contributors to reionization, and they can also probe exotic stellar populations or accretion onto massive black holes. To facilitate the use of EIGs as probes of high ionization, we focus on ratios constructed from strong rest-frame UV/optical emission-lines, specifically [O III] λ5008, Hβ, [Ne III] λ3870, [O II] λλ3727,3729, and [Ne V] λ3427. These lines probe the relative intensity at energies of 35.12, 13.62, 40.96, 13.62, and 97.12, eV, respectively, covering a wider range of ionization than traced by other common rest-frame UV/optical techniques. We use ratios of these lines ([Ne V]/[Ne III] ≡ Ne53 and [Ne III]/[O II]), which are closely separated in wavelength, and mitigates effects of dust attenuation and uncertainties in flux calibration. We make predictions from photoionization models constructed from Cloudy that use a broad range of stellar populations and black hole accretion models to explore the sensitivity of these line ratios to changes in the ionizing spectrum. We compare our models to observations from the Hubble Space Telescope and James Webb Space Telescope of galaxies with strong high-ionization emission lines at z ∼ 0, z ∼ 2, and z ∼ 7. We show that the Ne53 ratio can separate galaxies with ionization from “normal” stellar populations from those with AGN and even “exotic” Population III models. We introduce new selection methods to identify galaxies with photoionization driven by Population III stars or intermediate-mass black hole accretion disks that could be identified in upcoming high-redshift spectroscopic surveys.