As a pilot survey for the forthcoming 6dF Galaxy Redshift Survey, spectroscopy of galaxies selected in the 1.2 micron J waveband with the DENIS imaging survey was performed at the UKST using the FLAIR II multi-object spectroscope. Sixty-nine galaxy redshifts were obtained in a high galactic latitude field and an additional 12 redshifts in a low galactic latitude (b = 17˚), obscured field. This spectroscopic followup of NIR selected galaxies illustrates the feasibility of obtaining redshifts with optical spectra on galaxies selected at much longer wavelengths. It validated a very preliminary algorithm for star/galaxy separation for high galactic latitude DENIS objects, with 99% reliability for J <13.9. The FLAIR II redshifts are in excellent agreement with those, previously published, of 20 common galaxies. However, the FLAIR II redshift determinations presented here required substantially longer integration times to achieve 90% completeness than expected from previous optical surveys at comparable depth. This is mainly due to a degradation in overall fibre throughput due to known problems with ageing of the prism–cement–fibre interface with exposure to UV light. In comparison to our high galactic latitude field, our low latitude (high extinction) field required 2.5 times more exposure time for less than 50% of successful redshift measurements.
Among the J ≤ 13.9 galaxies with measured redshifts, only 376% display emission lines, in comparison with 60% of emission line galaxies in optical samples of comparable depth. These galaxies are, on average, half a magnitude bluer in B-J than galaxies of the same luminosity without emission lines. We confirm a previous optically-based result that the fraction of galaxies with emission lines increases rapidly with decreasing galaxy luminosity. The J band luminosity function is estimated. Our high latitude field displays a concentration of galaxies at cz ≲ 38 000 km s−1 suggesting a possible supercluster.A radial velocity is reported for a galaxy lying near the projected centre of the Abell 1434 cluster of galaxies, for which no cluster redshift is currently available.