J. X. Prochaska

University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, California, United States

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Publications (528)1856.34 Total impact

  • J. Xavier Prochaska, Marie Wingyee Lau, Joseph F. Hennawi
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    ABSTRACT: We survey the incidence and absorption strength of the metal-line transitions CII 1334 and CIV from the circumgalactic medium (CGM) surrounding z~2 quasars, which act as signposts for massive dark matter halos M_halo~10^12.5 Msun. On scales of the virial radius (Mvir~160kpc), we measure a high covering fraction fC=0.73+/-0.10 to strong CII absorption (rest equivalent width W1334>0.2A), implying a massive reservoir of cool (T~10^4K) metal enriched gas. We conservatively estimate a metal mass exceeding 10^8 Msun. We propose these metals trace enrichment of the incipient intragroup/intracluster medium that these halos eventually inhabit. This cool CGM around quasars is the pinnacle amongst galaxies observed at all epochs, as regards covering fraction and average equivalent width of HI Lya and low-ion metal absorption. We argue that the properties of this cool CGM primarily reflect the halo mass, and that other factors such as feedback, star-formation rate, and accretion from the intergalactic medium are secondary. We further estimate, that the CGM of massive, z~2 galaxies accounts for the majority of strong MgII absorption along random quasar sightlines. Lastly, we detect an excess of strong CIV absorption (W1548>0.3A) over random incidence to 1Mpc physical impact parameter and measure the quasar-CIV cross-correlation function: xi(r)=(r/r0)^-g with r0 = 7.5Mpc and g=1.7. Consistent with previous work on larger scales, we infer that this highly ionized CIV gas traces massive (10^12 Msun) halos.
    The Astrophysical Journal 09/2014; 796(2). · 6.73 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: We present the first observations of foreground Lyman-$\alpha$ forest absorption from high-redshift galaxies, targeting 24 star-forming galaxies (SFGs) with $z\sim 2.3-2.8$ within a $5' \times 15'$ region of the COSMOS field. The transverse sightline separation is $\sim 2\,h^{-1}\mathrm{Mpc}$ comoving, allowing us to create a tomographic reconstruction of the 3D Ly$\alpha$ forest absorption field over the redshift range $2.20\leq z\leq 2.45$. The resulting map covers $6\,h^{-1}\mathrm{Mpc} \times 14\,h^{-1}\mathrm{Mpc}$ in the transverse plane and $230\,h^{-1}\mathrm{Mpc}$ along the line-of-sight with a spatial resolution of $\approx 3.5\,h^{-1}\mathrm{Mpc}$, and is the first high-fidelity map of large-scale structure on $\sim\mathrm{Mpc}$ scales at $z>2$. Our map reveals significant structures with $\gtrsim 10\,h^{-1}\mathrm{Mpc}$ extent, including several spanning the entire transverse breadth, providing qualitative evidence for the filamentary structures predicted to exist in the high-redshift cosmic web. Simulated reconstructions with the same sightline sampling, spectral resolution, and signal-to-noise ratio recover the salient structures present in the underlying 3D absorption fields. Using data from other surveys, we identified 18 galaxies with known redshifts coeval with our map volume enabling a direct comparison to our tomographic map. This shows that galaxies preferentially occupy high-density regions, in qualitative agreement with the same comparison applied to simulations. Our results establishes the feasibility of the CLAMATO survey, which aims to obtain Ly$\alpha$ forest spectra for $\sim 1000$ SFGs over $\sim 1 \,\mathrm{deg}^2$ of the COSMOS field, in order to map out IGM large-scale structure at $\langle z \rangle \sim 2.3$ over a large volume $(100\,h^{-1}\mathrm{Mpc})^3$.
    The Astrophysical Journal Letters 09/2014; 795(1). · 6.35 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: We present results from a survey designed to probe the star formation properties of 32 damped Ly-alpha systems (DLAs) at z~2.7. By using the "double-DLA" technique that eliminates the glare of the bright background quasars, we directly measure the rest-frame FUV flux from DLAs and their neighbouring galaxies. We place stringent constraints on the star formation rates (SFRs) of DLAs to 2-sigma limits of <0.09-0.27 M/yr, corresponding to SFR surface densities < 10^(-2.6)-10^(-1.5) M/yr/kpc^2. The implications of these limits for the star formation law, metal enrichment, and cooling rates of DLAs are examined. By studying the distribution of impact parameters as a function of SFRs for all the galaxies detected around these DLAs, we place new direct constraints on the bright end of the UV luminosity function of DLA hosts. We find that <13% of the hosts have SFR > 2 M/yr at impact parameters b < SFR^(0.8)+6 kpc, in contrast with current samples of confirmed DLA galaxies, which appear to be biased. Our observations also disfavor a scenario in which the majority of DLAs arise from bright LBGs at distances 20 < b < 100 kpc. These new findings corroborate a picture in which DLAs do not originate from highly star forming systems that are coincident with the absorbers, and instead suggest that DLAs are associated with faint, possibly isolated, star-forming galaxies. Potential shortcomings of this scenario and future strategies for further investigation are discussed.
    09/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: KA1858+4850 is a narrow-line Seyfert 1 galaxy at redshift 0.078 and is among the brightest active galaxies monitored by the Kepler mission. We have carried out a reverberation mapping campaign designed to measure the broad-line region size and estimate the mass of the black hole in this galaxy. We obtained 74 epochs of spectroscopic data using the Kast Spectrograph at the Lick 3-m telescope from February to November of 2012, and obtained complementary V-band images from five other ground-based telescopes. We measured the H-beta light curve lag with respect to the V-band continuum light curve using both cross-correlation techniques (CCF) and continuum light curve variability modeling with the JAVELIN method, and found rest-frame lags of lag_CCF = 13.53 (+2.03, -2.32) days and lag_JAVELIN = 13.15 (+1.08, -1.00) days. The H-beta root-mean-square line profile has a width of sigma_line = 770 +/- 49 km/s. Combining these two results and assuming a virial scale factor of f = 5.13, we obtained a virial estimate of M_BH = 8.06 (+1.59, -1.72) x 10^6 M_sun for the mass of the central black hole and an Eddington ratio of L/L_Edd ~ 0.2. We also obtained consistent but slightly shorter emission-line lags with respect to the Kepler light curve. Thanks to the Kepler mission, the light curve of KA1858+4850 has among the highest cadences and signal-to-noise ratios ever measured for an active galactic nucleus; thus, our black hole mass measurement will serve as a reference point for relations between black hole mass and continuum variability characteristics in active galactic nuclei.
    08/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: We present the largest, publicly available, sample of Damped Lyman-$\alpha$ systems (DLAs) along Gamma-ray Bursts (GRB) line of sights in order to investigate the environmental properties of long GRBs in the $z=1.8-6$ redshift range. Compared with the most recent quasar DLAs sample (QSO-DLA), our analysis shows that GRB-DLAs probe a more metal enriched environment at $z\gtrsim3$, up to $[X/H]\sim-0.5$. In the $z=2-3$ redshift range, despite the large number of lower limits, there are hints that the two populations may be more similar (only at 90\% significance level). Also at \hiz, the GRB-DLA average metallicity seems to decline at a shallower rate than the QSO-DLAs: GRB-DLA hosts may be polluted with metals at least as far as $\sim 2$kpc from the GRB explosion site, probably due to previous star-formation episodes and/or supernovae explosions. This shallow metallicity trend, extended now up to $z\sim5$, confirms previous results that GRB hosts are star-forming and have, on average, higher metallicity than the general QSO-DLA population. Finally, our metallicity measurements are broadly consistent with the hypothesis of two channels of GRB progenitors, one of which is mildly affected by a metallicity bias. The metallicity evolution of modeled GRB hosts agrees reasonably well with our data up to intermediate redshift, while more data are needed to constrain the models at $z\gtrsim 4$.
    08/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: We conduct a deep narrow-band imaging survey of 13 Ly$\alpha$ blobs (LABs) located in the SSA22 proto-cluster at z~3.1 in the CIV and HeII emission lines in an effort to constrain the physical process powering the Ly$\alpha$ emission in LABs. Our observations probe down to unprecedented surface brightness limits of 2.1 $-$ 3.4 $\times$ 10$^{-18}$ erg s$^{-1}$ cm$^{-2}$ arcsec$^{-2}$ per 1 arcsec$^2$ aperture (5$\sigma$) for the HeII$\lambda$1640 and CIV$\lambda$1549 lines, respectively. We do not detect extended HeII and CIV emission in any of the LABs, placing strong upper limits on the HeII/Ly$\alpha$ and CIV/Ly$\alpha$ line ratios, of 0.11 and 0.16, for the brightest two LABs in the field. We conduct detailed photoionization modeling of the expected line ratios and find that, although our data constitute the deepest ever observations of these lines, they are still not deep enough to rule out a scenario where the Ly$\alpha$ emission is powered by the ionizing luminosity of an obscured AGN. Our models can accommodate HeII/Ly$\alpha$ and CIV/Ly$\alpha$ ratios as low as $\simeq$0.05 and $\simeq$0.07 respectively, implying that one needs to reach surface brightness as low as 1 $-$ 1.5 $\times$ 10$^{-18}$ erg s$^{-1}$ cm$^{-2}$ arcsec$^{-2}$ (at 5$\sigma$) in order to rule out a photoionization scenario. These depths will be achievable with the new generation of image-slicing integral field units such as VLT/MUSE or Keck/KCWI. We also model the expected HeII/Ly$\alpha$ and CIV/Ly$\alpha$ in a different scenario, where Ly$\alpha$ emission is powered by shocks generated in a large-scale superwind, but find that our observational constraints can only be met for shock velocities $v_{\rm s} \gtrsim$ 250 km s$^{-1}$, which appear to be in conflict with recent observations of quiescent kinematics in LABs.
    07/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: Using over a million and a half extragalactic spectra we study the properties of the mysterious Diffuse Interstellar Bands (DIBs) in the Milky Way. These data provide us with an unprecedented sampling of the skies at high Galactic-latitude and low dust-column-density. In this first paper we present our method, study the correlation of the equivalent width of 12 DIBs with dust extinction and with a few atomic species, and the distribution of four DIBs over nearly 15,000 square degrees. As previously found, DIBs strengths correlate with extinction and therefore inevitably with each other. However, we find that DIBs can exist even in dust free areas. Furthermore, we find that the DIBs correlation with dust varies significantly over the sky. DIB under- or over-densities, relative to the expectation from dust, are often spread over hundreds of square degrees. These patches are different for the four DIBs, showing that they are unlikely to originate from the same carrier.
    06/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: We report the serendipitous detection of a 0.2 L$^*$, Lyman-$\alpha$ emitting galaxy at redshift 2.5 at an impact parameter of 50 kpc from a brightbackground QSO sightline. A high-resolution spectrum of the QSO reveals a partial Lyman-limit absorption system ($N_\mathrm{HI}=10^{16.94\pm0.10}$ cm$^{-2}$) with many associated metal absorption lines at the same redshift as the foreground galaxy. Using photoionization models that carefully treat measurement errors and marginalise over uncertainties in the shape and normalisation of the ionizing radiation spectrum, we precisely measure the total hydrogen column density $N_\mathrm{H}=10^{19.4\pm0.3}$ cm$^{-2}$, and show that all the absorbing clouds are highly enriched, with $Z=0.1$-$0.6~Z_\odot$. These high metallicities and the system's large velocity width ($436$ km$\,$s$^{-1}$) suggest the gas is produced by an outflowing wind. Using an expanding shell model we estimate a mass outflow rate of $\sim5~M_\odot\,$yr$^{-1}$. Our photoionization model yields extremely small sizes ($<$100-500 pc) for the absorbing clouds, which we argue is typical of high column density absorbers in the circumgalactic medium (CGM). Given these small sizes and extreme kinematics, it is unclear how the clumps survive in the CGM without being destroyed by hydrodynamic instabilities. The small cloud sizes imply that even state-of-the-art cosmological simulations require more than a $1000$-fold improvement in resolution to resolve the hydrodynamics relevant for cool gas in the CGM.
    06/2014;
  • Parichay Mazumdar, Nissim Kanekar, J. Xavier Prochaska
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    ABSTRACT: We report a deep search for redshifted HI 21 cm emission from three damped and sub-damped Lyman-$\alpha$ absorbers (DLAs) at $z \approx 0.1$ with the Green Bank Telescope (GBT). No evidence for a redshifted HI 21 cm emission signal was obtained in the GBT spectra of two absorbers, with the data on the third rendered unusable by terrestrial interference. The non-detections of HI 21 cm emission yield strong constraints on the HI masses of the associated galaxies, M$_{\rm HI} < 2.3 \times 10^9 \times (\Delta V/100)^{1/2}$ M$_\odot$ for the sub-DLA at $z = 0.0830$ towards J1553+3548, and M$_{\rm HI} < 2.7 \times 10^9 \times (\Delta V/100)^{1/2}$ M$_\odot$ for the DLA at $z = 0.0963$ towards J1619+3342, where $\Delta V$ is the HI 21 cm line width, in km s$^{-1}$. This continues the trend of low HI masses found in all low-$z$ DLAs and sub-DLAs that have been searched for redshifted HI 21 cm emission. Low-redshift absorbers with relatively low HI column densities, $\lesssim few \times 10^{20}$ cm$^{-2}$, thus do not typically arise in massive gas-rich galaxies.
    Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society Letters 06/2014; 443(1). · 5.52 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: We report new observations of circumgalactic gas from the COS-Dwarfs survey, a systematic investigation of the gaseous halos around 43 low-mass z $\leq$ 0.1 galaxies using background QSOs observed with the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph. From the projected 1D and 2D distribution of C IV absorption, we find that C IV absorption is detected out to ~ 0.5 R$_{vir}$ of the host galaxies. The C IV absorption strength falls off radially as a power law and beyond 0.5 R$_{vir}$, no C IV absorption is detected above our sensitivity limit of ~ 50-100 m$\AA$. We find a tentative correlation between detected C IV absorption strength and star formation, paralleling the strong correlation seen in highly ionized oxygen for L~L* galaxies by the COS-Halos survey. The data imply a large carbon reservoir in the CGM of these galaxies, corresponding to a minimum carbon mass of $\gtrsim$ 1.2$\times 10^6$ $M_\odot$ out to ~ 110 kpc. This mass is comparable to the carbon mass in the ISM and more than the carbon mass currently in stars of these galaxies. The C IV absorption seen around these sub-L* galaxies can account for almost two-thirds of all $W_r$> 100 m$\AA$ C IV absorption detected at low z. Comparing the C IV covering fraction with hydrodynamical simulations, we find that an energy-driven wind model is consistent with the observations whereas a wind model of constant velocity fails to reproduce the CGM or the galaxy properties.
    06/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: We measure the effective optical depth of HeII Ly\alpha\ absorption \tau$_\mathsf{eff,HeII}$ at 2.3<z<3.5 in 17 UV-transmitting quasars observed with UV spectrographs on the Hubble Space Telescope (HST). The median \tau$_\mathsf{eff,HeII}$ values increase gradually from 2.05 at z=2.7 to 4.27 at z=3.16, but with a strong sightline-to-sightline variance. Many $\simeq$35 comoving Mpc regions of the z>3 intergalactic medium (IGM) remain transmissive (\tau$_\mathsf{eff,HeII}$<4), and the gradual trend with redshift appears consistent with density evolution of a fully reionized IGM. These modest optical depths imply average HeII fractions of x$_\mathsf{HeII}\simeq$0.003 and ionizing photon mean free paths of $\simeq$50 comoving Mpc at z$\simeq$3.4, thus requiring that a substantial volume of the helium in the Universe was already doubly ionized at early times, in conflict with current models of HeII reionization driven by luminous quasars. Along 10 sightlines we measure the coeval HI Ly\alpha\ effective optical depths, allowing us to study the density dependence of \tau$_\mathsf{eff,HeII}$ at z$\sim$3. We establish that: (1) the dependence of \tau$_\mathsf{eff,HeII}$ on increasing \tau$_\mathsf{eff,HI}$ is significantly shallower than expected from simple models of an IGM reionized in HeII, requiring higher HeII photoionization rates in overdense regions, (2) there are very large fluctuations in \tau$_\mathsf{eff,HeII}$ at all \tau$_\mathsf{eff,HI}$, which greatly exceed the expectations from these simple models. These data present a distinct challenge to scenarios of HeII reionization - an IGM where HeII appears to be predominantly ionized at z$\simeq$3.4, and with a radiation field strength that is correlated with the density field, but exhibits large fluctuations at all densities.
    05/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: We present a template-fitting algorithm for determining photometric redshifts, z phot, of candidate high-redshift gamma-ray bursts (GRBs). Using afterglow photometry, obtained by the Reionization and Transients InfraRed (RATIR) camera, this algorithm accounts for the intrinsic GRB afterglow spectral energy distribution, host dust extinction, and the effect of neutral hydrogen (local and cosmological) along the line of sight. We present the results obtained by this algorithm and the RATIR photometry of GRB 130606A, finding a range of best-fit solutions, 5.6 < z phot < 6.0, for models of several host dust extinction laws (none, the Milky Way, Large Magellanic Clouds, and Small Magellanic Clouds), consistent with spectroscopic measurements of the redshift of this GRB. Using simulated RATIR photometry, we find that our algorithm provides precise measures of z phot in the ranges of 4 < z phot 8 and 9 < z phot < 10 and can robustly determine when z phot > 4. Further testing highlights the required caution in cases of highly dust-extincted host galaxies. These tests also show that our algorithm does not erroneously find z phot < 4 when z sim > 4, thereby minimizing false negatives and allowing us to rapidly identify all potential high-redshift events.
    The Astronomical Journal 05/2014; 148(1):2. · 4.97 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: We present optical and near-infrared (NIR) photometry for three gamma-ray burst supernovae (GRB-SNe): GRB 120729A, GRB 130215A / SN 2013ez and GRB 130831A / SN 2013fu. In the case of GRB 130215A / SN 2013ez, we also present optical spectroscopy at t-t0=16.1 d, which covers rest-frame 3000-6250 Angstroms. Based on Fe II (5169) and Si (II) (6355), our spectrum indicates an unusually low expansion velocity of 4000-6350 km/s, the lowest ever measured for a GRB-SN. Additionally, we determined the brightness and shape of each accompanying SN relative to a template supernova (SN 1998bw), which were used to estimate the amount of nickel produced via nucleosynthesis during each explosion. We find that our derived nickel masses are typical of other GRB-SNe, and greater than those of SNe Ibc that are not associated with GRBs. For GRB 130831A / SN 2013fu, we use our well-sampled R-band light curve (LC) to estimate the amount of ejecta mass and the kinetic energy of the SN, finding that these too are similar to other GRB-SNe. For GRB 130215A, we take advantage of contemporaneous optical/NIR observations to construct an optical/NIR bolometric LC of the afterglow. We fit the bolometric LC with the millisecond magnetar model of Zhang & Meszaros (2001), which considers dipole radiation as a source of energy injection to the forward shock powering the optical/NIR afterglow. Using this model we derive an initial spin period of P=12 ms and a magnetic field of B=1.1 x 10^15 G, which are commensurate with those found for proposed magnetar central engines of other long-duration GRBs.
    05/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: Damped Ly-alpha absorbers (DLAs) are a well-studied class of absorption line systems, and yet the properties of their host galaxies remain largely unknown. To investigate the origin of these systems, we have conducted an imaging survey of 32 quasar fields with intervening DLAs between z~1.9-3.8, leveraging a technique that allows us to image galaxies at any small angular separation from the background quasars. In this paper, we present the properties of the targeted DLA sample, new imaging observations of the quasar fields, and the analysis of new and archival spectra of the background quasars. In a companion paper we use these data to obtain an unbiased census of the DLA host galaxy population(s) and to directly measure the in-situ star formation rates of gas-rich galaxies at z>2.
    Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 04/2014; 444(2). · 5.52 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The spiral host galaxy of GRB 060505 at z=0.089 was the site of a puzzling long duration burst without an accompanying supernova. Studies of the burst environment by Th\"one et al. (2008) suggested that this GRB came from the collapse of a massive star and that the GRB site was a region with properties different from the rest of the galaxy. We reobserved the galaxy in high spatial resolution using the VIMOS integral-field unit (IFU) at the VLT with a spaxel size of 0.67 arcsec. Furthermore, we use long slit high resolution data from HIRES/Keck at two different slit positions covering the GRB site, the center of the galaxy and an HII region next to the GRB region. We compare the properties of different HII regions in the galaxy with the GRB site and study the global and local kinematic properties of this galaxy. The resolved data show that the GRB site has the lowest metallicity in the galaxy with around 1/3 Z_solar, but its specific SFR (SSFR) of 7.4 M_solar/yr/L/L* and age (determined by the Halpha EW) are similar to other HII regions in the host. The galaxy shows a gradient in metallicity and SSFR from the bulge to the outskirts as it is common for spiral galaxies. This gives further support to the theory that GRBs prefer regions of higher star-formation and lower metallicity, which, in S-type galaxies, are more easily found in the spiral arms than in the centre. Kinematic measurements of the galaxy do not show evidence for large perturbations but a minor merger in the past cannot be excluded. This study confirms the collapsar origin of GRB060505 but reveals that the properties of the HII region surrounding the GRB were not unique to that galaxy. Spatially resolved observations are key to know the implications and interpretations of unresolved GRB hosts observations at higher redshifts.
    04/2014; 441(3).
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    ABSTRACT: Recoiling supermassive black holes (SMBHs) are considered one plausible physical mechanism to explain high velocity shifts between narrow and broad emission lines sometimes observed in quasar spectra. If the sphere of influence of the recoiling SMBH is such that only the accretion disc is bound, the dusty torus would be left behind, hence the SED should then present distinctive features (i.e. a mid-infrared deficit). Here we present results from fitting the Spectral Energy Distributions (SEDs) of 32 Type-1 AGN with high velocity shifts between broad and narrow lines. The aim is to find peculiar properties in the multi-wavelength SEDs of such objects by comparing their physical parameters (torus and disc luminosity, intrinsic reddening, and size of the 12$\mu$m emitter) with those estimated from a control sample of $\sim1000$ \emph{typical} quasars selected from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey in the same redshift range. We find that all sources, with the possible exception of J1154+0134, analysed here present a significant amount of 12~$\mu$m emission. This is in contrast with a scenario of a SMBH displaced from the center of the galaxy, as expected for an undergoing recoil event.
    03/2014; 441(1).
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    ABSTRACT: We analyze the physical conditions of the cool (T ~ 10^4 K) circumgalactic medium (CGM) using the COS-Halos suite of gas column density measurements taken along 38 quasar sightlines passing within 160 kpc of L ~ L* galaxies at z~0.2. These data are well described by simple photoionization models, with the gas highly ionized (n_HII/n_H > 99%) by the extragalactic ultraviolet background (EUVB). Scaling by estimates for the virial radius, R_vir, we show that the ionization state (tracked by the dimensionless ionization parameter, U) increases with distance from the host galaxy. This correlation has a power-law form of U = (0.006 +/- 0.003)(R/R_vir)^(0.8 +/- 0.3), with significant scatter. The ionization parameters imply a decreasing volume density profile n_ H = 10^(-4.2 +/- 0.25) (R/R_vir)^(-0.8 +/-0.3). Our derived gas volume densities are several orders of magnitude lower than predictions from standard two-phase models with a cool medium in pressure equilibrium with a hot, diffuse medium. Applying the ionization corrections to the HI column densities, we estimate a lower limit to the cool gas mass M_ CGMcool > 6.5 x 10^10 M_sun for the volume within R < R_vir. Allowing for an additional warm, OVI-traced phase, the CGM accounts for *at least* half of the baryons purported to be missing from galaxy dark matter halos.
    The Astrophysical Journal 03/2014; 792(1). · 6.73 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: We have obtained spectra of 163 quasars at $z_\mathrm{em}>4.4$ with the Gemini Multi Object Spectrometers on the Gemini North and South telescopes, the largest publicly available sample of high-quality, low-resolution spectra at these redshifts. From this homogeneous data set, we generated stacked quasar spectra in three redshift intervals at $z\sim 5$. We have modelled the flux below the rest-frame Lyman limit ($\lambda_\mathrm{r}<912$\AA) to assess the mean free path $\lambda_\mathrm{mfp}^{912}$ of the intergalactic medium to HI-ionizing radiation. At mean redshifts $z_\mathrm{q}=4.56$, 4.86 and 5.16, we measure $\lambda_\mathrm{mfp}^{912}=(22.2\pm 2.3, 15.1\pm 1.8, 10.3\pm 1.6)h_{70}^{-1}$ proper Mpc with uncertainties dominated by sample variance. Combining our results with $\lambda_\mathrm{mfp}^{912}$ measurements from lower redshifts, the data are well modelled by a simple power-law $\lambda_\mathrm{mfp}^{912}=A[(1+z)/5]^\eta$ with $A=(37\pm 2)h_{70}^{-1}$ Mpc and $\eta = -5.4\pm 0.4$ between $z=2.3$ and $z=5.5$. This rapid evolution requires a physical mechanism -- beyond cosmological expansion -- which reduces the cosmic effective Lyman limit opacity. We speculate that the majority of HI Lyman limit opacity manifests in gas outside galactic dark matter haloes, tracing large-scale structures (e.g. filaments) whose average density (and consequently neutral fraction) decreases with cosmic time. Our measurements of the strongly redshift-dependent mean free path shortly after the completion of HI reionization serve as a valuable boundary condition for numerical models thereof. Having measured $\lambda_\mathrm{mfp}^{912}\approx 10$ Mpc at $z=5.2$, we confirm that the intergalactic medium is highly ionized by that epoch and that the redshift evolution of the mean free path does not show a break that would indicate a recent end to HI reionization.
    02/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: We present evidence that the cosmological mean metallicity of neutral atomic hydrogen gas shows a sudden decrease at z > 4.7 down to \langle {Z}\rangle =-2.03^{+0.09}_{-0.11}, which is 6σ deviant from that predicted by a linear fit to the data at lower redshifts. This measurement is made possible by the chemical abundance measurements of eight new damped Lyα (DLA) systems at z > 4.7 observed with the Echellette Spectrograph and Imager on the Keck II Telescope, doubling the number of measurements at z > 4.7 to 16. Possible explanations for this sudden decrease in metallicity include a change in the physical processes that enrich the neutral gas within disks, or an increase of the covering factor of neutral gas outside disks due to a lower ultraviolet radiation field and higher density at high redshift. The later possibility would result in a new population of presumably lower metallicity DLAs, with an increased contribution to the DLA population at higher redshifts resulting in a reduced mean metallicity. Furthermore, we provide evidence of a possible decrease at z > 4.7 in the comoving metal mass density of DLAs, ρmetals(z)DLA, which is flat out to z ~ 4.3. Such a decrease is expected, as otherwise most of the metals from star-forming galaxies would reside in DLAs by z ~ 6. While the metallicity is decreasing at high redshift, the contribution of DLAs to the total metal budget of the universe increases with redshift, with DLAs at z ~ 4.3 accounting for ~20% as many metals as produced by Lyman break galaxies.
    01/2014; 782(2).
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    ABSTRACT: Simulations of structure formation in the Universe predict that galaxies are embedded in a 'cosmic web', where most baryons reside as rarefied and highly ionized gas. This material has been studied for decades in absorption against background sources, but the sparseness of these inherently one-dimensional probes preclude direct constraints on the three-dimensional morphology of the underlying web. Here we report observations of a cosmic web filament in Lyman-α emission, discovered during a survey for cosmic gas fluorescently illuminated by bright quasars at redshift z ≈ 2.3. With a linear projected size of approximately 460 physical kiloparsecs, the Lyman-α emission surrounding the radio-quiet quasar UM 287 extends well beyond the virial radius of any plausible associated dark-matter halo and therefore traces intergalactic gas. The estimated cold gas mass of the filament from the observed emission-about 10(12.0 ± 0.5)/C(1/2) solar masses, where C is the gas clumping factor-is more than ten times larger than what is typically found in cosmological simulations, suggesting that a population of intergalactic gas clumps with subkiloparsec sizes may be missing in current numerical models.
    Nature 01/2014; · 38.60 Impact Factor

Publication Stats

7k Citations
1,856.34 Total Impact Points

Institutions

  • 2014
    • University of California, Berkeley
      • Department of Astronomy
      Berkeley, California, United States
    • Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
      Berkeley, California, United States
  • 2005–2014
    • University of California Observatories
      Santa Cruz, California, United States
  • 1925–2014
    • University of California, Santa Cruz
      • Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics
      Santa Cruz, California, United States
  • 2013
    • Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics
      • Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory
      Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States
    • Princeton University
      Princeton, New Jersey, United States
    • University of Colorado
      Denver, Colorado, United States
  • 2011–2013
    • Space Telescope Science Institute
      Baltimore, Maryland, United States
    • Max Planck Institute for Astronomy
      Heidelburg, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
    • University of Massachusetts Amherst
      • Department of Astronomy
      Amherst Center, MA, United States
  • 2003–2013
    • California Institute of Technology
      • Department of Astronomy
      Pasadena, California, United States
  • 2012
    • Saint Michael's College
      Colchester, Vermont, United States
  • 2009–2012
    • CSU Mentor
      • Department of Physics and Astronomy
      Long Beach, California, United States
    • University of Leicester
      • Department of Physics and Astronomy
      Leicester, ENG, United Kingdom
    • University of Chicago
      • Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics
      Chicago, Illinois, United States
  • 2005–2011
    • Yale University
      • Department of Astronomy
      New Haven, Connecticut, United States
  • 2010
    • National Radio Astronomy Observatory
      Charlottesville, Virginia, United States
    • University of Florida
      • Department of Astronomy
      Gainesville, Florida, United States
  • 2006–2008
    • University of California, San Diego
      • Center for Astrophysics and Space Sciences (CASS)
      San Diego, CA, United States
    • Joint Institute for Heavy Ion Research
      Oak Ridge, Tennessee, United States
  • 2000–2008
    • Carnegie Institute
      Pasadena, Texas, United States
  • 1998–2008
    • Carnegie Institution for Science
      • Department of Terrestrial Magnetism
      Washington, West Virginia, United States
  • 2007
    • University of Oklahoma
      • Homer L. Dodge Department of Physics and Astronomy
      Norman, Oklahoma, United States
  • 2001
    • University of New South Wales
      • School of Physics
      Kensington, New South Wales, Australia