We present a large sample of 183 extreme emission-line galaxies (EELGs) at redshift 0.11 < z < 0.93 selected from the 20k zCOSMOS Bright Survey by their unusually large [OIII]5007 equivalent widths. Based on emission-line diagnostics, 165 purely star-forming EELGs and 18 narrow-line AGN candidates are identified. Using multiwavelength COSMOS photometry, HST-ACS I-band imaging and optical zCOSMOS spectroscopy we characterize their main physical properties. EELGs are small (R_50 ~ 1.3 kpc), low-mass (M*/Msol~10^7-10^10) galaxies forming stars at unusually high rates (SFR~0.1-35 Msol/yr), being among the highest specific SFRs galaxies in zCOSMOS. Consistently, the EELGs are luminous and extremely compact at rest-frame UV wavelengths and include strong Ly$\alpha$ emitters, as revealed by GALEX spectroscopy. Using both direct and strong-line methods, we show that zCOSMOS EELGs are low-metallicity systems (12+log(O/H)=8.16 in the median) including several extremely metal-deficient galaxies (<10% solar). Finally, HST-ACS I-band images reveal that ~80% of the EELGs show non-axisymmetric morphologies, including clumpy and tadpole galaxies, and a significant fraction (~29%) of galaxies with additional low surface brightness features strongly suggesting recent or ongoing interactions. As star-forming dwarfs in the local Universe, EELGs are preferably found in relative isolation. While only very few EELGs belong to compact groups, almost one third of them are found in spectroscopically confirmed loose pairs or triplets. The zCOSMOS EELGs are galaxies caught in a transient and probably early period of their evolution, where they are efficiently building-up a significant fraction of their present-day stellar mass in an ongoing galaxy-wide starburst. Therefore, the EELGs constitute an ideal benchmark for comparison studies between low- and high-redshift low-mass star-forming galaxies.
R. Amorin, E. Perez-Montero, T. Contini, et. al.
Mon, 17 Mar 14