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Astronomy & Astrophysics


Aims. We investigate the nature of the source GDS J033218.92-275302.7 at redshift 5.56.
Methods. The spectral energy distribution of the source is well-sampled by 16 bands photometry from UV-optical (HST and VLT), near infrared, near infrared (VLT) to mid-infrared (Spitzer). The detection of a signal in the mid-infrared Spitzer/IRAC bands 5.8, 8.0 - where the nebular emission contribution is less effective - suggests that there is a Balmer break, the signature of an underlying stellar population formed at earlier epochs. The high-quality VLT/FORS2 spectrum shows a clear Ly emission line, together with semi-forbidden N IV] 1483.3-1486.5 also in emission. These lines imply a young stellar population. In particular, the N IV] 1483.3-1486.5 feature (if the source is not hosting an AGN) is a signature of massive and hot stars with an associated nebular emission. Conversely, it may be a signature of an AGN. The observed SED and the Ly emission line profile were modeled carefully to investigate the internal properties of the source.
Results. From the SED-fitting with a single and a double stellar population and from the Ly modeling, it turns out that the source seems to have an evolved component with a stellar mass of 5 1010 and age 0.4 Gyr, and a young component with an age of 0.01 Gyr and star formation rate in the range of 30-200 . The limits on the effective radius derived from the ACS/z850 and VLT/Ks bands indicate that this galaxy is denser than the local ones with similar mass. A relatively high nebular gas column density is favored from the Ly line modeling ( 1021 cm-2). A vigorous outflow ( 450 km s-1) has been measured from the optical spectrum, consistent with the Ly modeling. From ACS observations it turns out that the region emitting Ly photons is spatially compact and has a similar effective radius (0.1 kpc physical) estimated at the 1400 Å rest-frame wavelength, whose emission is dominated by the stellar continuum and/or AGN. The gas is blown out from the central region, but, given the mass of the galaxy, it is uncertain whether it will pollute the IGM to large distances. We argue that a burst of star formation in a dense gas environment is active (possibly containing hot and massive stars and/or a low luminosity AGN), superimposed on an already formed fraction of stellar mass.