Frontier fields: High-redshift predictions and early results

Dan Coe, Larry Bradley, Adi Zitrin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

100 Scopus citations


The Frontier Fields program is obtaining deep Hubble and Spitzer Space Telescope images of new "blank" fields and nearby fields gravitationally lensed by massive galaxy clusters. The Hubble images of the lensed fields are revealing nJy sources (AB mag > 31), the faintest galaxies yet observed. The full program will transform our understanding of galaxy evolution in the first 600 million years (z > 9). Previous programs have yielded a dozen or so z > 9 candidates, including perhaps fewer than expected in the Ultra Deep Field and more than expected in shallower Hubble images. In this paper, we present high-redshift (z > 6) number count predictions for the Frontier Fields and candidates in three of the first Hubble images. We show the full Frontier Fields program may yield up to 70 z > 9 candidates (6 per field). We base this estimate on an extrapolation of luminosity functions observed between 4 < z < 8 and gravitational lensing models submitted by the community. However, in the first two deep infrared Hubble images obtained to date, we find z 8 candidates but no strong candidates at z > 9. We defer quantitative analysis of the z > 9 deficit (including detection completeness estimates) to future work including additional data. At these redshifts, cosmic variance (field-to-field variation) is expected to be significant (greater than ±50%) and include clustering of early galaxies formed in overdensities. The full Frontier Fields program will significantly mitigate this uncertainty by observing six independent sightlines each with a lensing cluster and nearby blank field.

Original languageEnglish
Article number84
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - 20 Feb 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • dark ages, reionization, first stars
  • early universe
  • galaxies: clusters: general
  • galaxies: evolution
  • galaxies: high-redshift
  • gravitational lensing: strong

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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