The Complete CEERS Early Universe Galaxy Sample: A Surprisingly Slow Evolution of the Space Density of Bright Galaxies at z ∼ 8.5–14.5

Finkelstein, Steven L.; Leung, Gene C. K.; Bagley, Micaela B.; Dickinson, Mark; Ferguson, Henry C.; Papovich, Casey; Akins, Hollis B.; Arrabal Haro, Pablo; Davé, Romeel; Dekel, Avishai; Kartaltepe, Jeyhan S.; Kocevski, Dale D.; Koekemoer, Anton M.; Pirzkal, Nor; Somerville, Rachel S.; Yung, L. Y. Aaron; Amorín, Ricardo O.; Backhaus, Bren E.; Behroozi, Peter; Bisigello, Laura; Bromm, Volker; Casey, Caitlin M.; Chávez Ortiz, Óscar A.; Cheng, Yingjie; Chworowsky, Katherine; Cleri, Nikko J.; Cooper, M. C.; Davis, Kelcey; de la Vega, Alexander; Elbaz, David; Franco, Maximilien; Fontana, Adriano; Fujimoto, Seiji; Giavalisco, Mauro; Grogin, Norman A.; Holwerda, Benne W.; Huertas-Company, Marc; Hirschmann, Michaela; Iyer, Kartheik G.; Jogee, Shardha; Jung, Intae; Larson, Rebecca L.; Lucas, Ray A.; Mobasher, Bahram; Morales, Alexa M.; Morley, Caroline V.; Mukherjee, Sagnick; Pérez-González, Pablo G.; Ravindranath, Swara; Rodighiero, Giulia; Rowland, Melanie J.; Tacchella, Sandro; Taylor, Anthony J.; Trump, Jonathan R.; Wilkins, Stephen M.
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The Astrophysical Journal

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We present a sample of 88 candidate z ∼ 8.5–14.5 galaxies selected from the completed NIRCam imaging from the Cosmic Evolution Early Release Science survey. These data cover ∼90 arcmin2 (10 NIRCam pointings) in six broadband imaging filters and one medium-band imaging filter. With this sample we confirm at higher confidence early JWST conclusions that bright galaxies in this epoch are more abundant than predicted by most theoretical models. We construct the rest-frame ultraviolet luminosity functions at z ∼ 9, 11, and 14 and show that the space density of bright (M UV = ‑20) galaxies changes only modestly from z ∼ 14 to z ∼ 9, compared to a steeper increase from z ∼ 8 to z ∼ 4. While our candidates are photometrically selected, spectroscopic follow-up has now confirmed 13 of them, with only one significant interloper, implying that the fidelity of this sample is high. Successfully explaining the evidence for a flatter evolution in the number densities of UV-bright z > 10 galaxies may thus require changes to the dominant physical processes regulating star formation. While our results indicate that significant variations of dust attenuation with redshift are unlikely to be the dominant factor at these high redshifts, they are consistent with predictions from models that naturally have enhanced star formation efficiency and/or stochasticity. An evolving stellar initial mass function could also bring model predictions into better agreement with our results. Deep spectroscopic follow-up of a large sample of early galaxies can distinguish between these competing scenarios.