Abundances of galaxies at redshifts z > 4 are difficult to obtain from damped Lyα (DLA) systems in the sightlines of quasars (QSOs) due to the Lyα forest blanketing and the low number of high-redshift QSOs known to date. Gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) with their higher luminosity are well suited to study galaxies out to the formation of the first stars at z > 10. The large wavelength coverage of the X-shooter spectrograph makes it an excellent tool to study the interstellar medium of high-redshift galaxies, in particular if the redshift is not known beforehand. In this paper, we determine the properties of a GRB host at z = 4.667 23 from absorption lines combined with X-ray and optical imaging data. This is one of the highest redshifts where a detailed analysis with medium-resolution data is possible. We measure a relatively high metallicity of [S/H] = −1.1 ± 0.2 for a galaxy at this redshift. Assuming ultraviolet pumping as origin for the fine-structure lines, the material observed is between 0.3 and 1.0 kpc from the GRB. The extinction determined by the spectral slope from X-rays to the infrared shows a moderate value of AV = 0.13 ± 0.05 mag and relative abundances point to a warm disc extinction pattern. Low- and high-ionization as well as fine-structure lines show a complicated kinematic structure probably pointing to a merger in progress. We also detect one intervening system at z = 2.18. GRB-DLAs have a shallower evolution of metallicity with redshift than QSO absorbers and no evolution in their H I column density or ionization fraction. GRB hosts at high redshifts seem to continue the trend of the metallicity–luminosity relation towards lower metallicities but the sample is still too small to draw a definite conclusion. While the detection of GRBs at z > 4 with current satellites is still difficult, they are very important for our understanding of the early epochs of star and galaxy formation.
- galaxies: abundances
- galaxies: high-redshift
- galaxies: ISM
- gamma-ray burst: individual: GRB 100219A