Gabor Worseck

Max Planck Institute for Astronomy, Heidelburg, Baden-Württemberg, Germany

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Publications (35)117.94 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: The ionising continuum from active galactic nuclei (AGN) is fundamental for interpreting their broad emission lines and understanding their impact on the surrounding gas. Furthermore, it provides hints on how matter accretes onto supermassive black holes. Using HST's Wide Field Camera 3 we have constructed the first stacked ultraviolet (rest-frame wavelengths 600-2500\AA) spectrum of 53 luminous quasars at z=2.4, with a state-of-the-art correction for the intervening Lyman forest and Lyman continuum absorption. The continuum slope ($f_\nu \propto \nu^{\alpha_\nu}$) of the full sample shows a break at ~912\AA\ with spectral index $\alpha_\nu=-0.61\pm0.01$ at $\lambda>912$\AA\ and a softening at shorter wavelengths ($\alpha_\nu=-1.70 \pm 0.61$ at $\lambda\leq 912$\AA). Our analysis proves that a proper intergalactic medium absorption correction is required to establish the intrinsic continuum emission of quasars. We interpret our average ultraviolet spectrum in the context of photoionisation, accretion disk models, and quasar contribution to the ultraviolet background. We find that observed broad line ratios are consistent with those predicted assuming an ionising slope of $\alpha_\mathrm{ion}=$-2.0, similar to the observed ionising spectrum in the same wavelength range. The continuum break and softening are consistent with accretion disk plus X-ray corona models when black hole spin is taken into account. Our spectral energy distribution yields a 30% increase to previous estimates of the specific quasar emissivity, such that quasars may contribute significantly to the total specific Lyman limit emissivity estimated from the Ly$\alpha$ forest at z<3.2.
    Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 03/2015; 449(4). DOI:10.1093/mnras/stv516 · 5.23 Impact Factor
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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.
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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.
  • Matthew McQuinn, Gabor Worseck
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    ABSTRACT: Previous studies of the 2.2 < z < 2.7 He II Lyα forest measured much larger ionizing background fluctuations than are anticipated theoretically. We re-analyse recent Hubble Space Telescope data from the two He II sightlines that have been used to make these measurements, HE 2347-4342 and HS 1700+6416, and find that the vast majority of the absorption is actually consistent with a single, spatially uniform He II photoionization rate. We show that the data constrain the root mean square fractional fluctuation level smoothed over 1 Mpc to be <2 and discuss why other studies had found 10 times larger fluctuations. Our measurement is consistent with models in which quasars dominate the z = 2.5 metagalactic He II-ionizing background (but it can accommodate less compelling models), and it suggests that quasars (rather than stars) are the dominant contributor to the H I-ionizing background. We detect a He II transverse proximity effect that is slightly offset in redshift from a known quasar. Its profile and offset may indicate that the quasar turned on 10 Myr ago.
    Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 04/2014; 440(3). DOI:10.1093/mnras/stu242 · 5.23 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: We present HST/COS observations of highly ionized absorption lines associated with a radio-loud QSO at $z=1.1319$. The absorption system has multiple velocity components, tracing gas that is largely outflowing from the QSO at velocities of a few 100 km s$^{-1}$. There is an unprecedented range in ionization, with detections of HI, NIII, NIV, NV, OIV, OIV*, OV, OVI, NeVIII, MgX, SV and ArVIII. We estimate the total hydrogen number density from the column density ratio N(OIV*)/N(OIV) to be $\log(n_{\textrm{H}}/\textrm{cm}^3)\sim 3$. Assuming photoionization equilibrium, we derive a distance to the absorbing complex of $2.3<R<6.0$ kpc from the centre of the QSO. A range in ionization parameter, covering $\sim 2$ orders of magnitude, suggest absorption path lengths in the range $10^{-4.5}<l_{\textrm{abs}}<1$ pc. In addition, the absorbing gas only partially covers the background emission from the QSO continuum, which suggests clouds with transverse sizes $l_{\textrm{trans}}<10^{-2.5}$ pc. Widely differing absorption path lengths, combined with covering fractions less than unity across all ions pose a challenge to models involving simple cloud geometries. These issues may be mitigated by the presence of non-equilibrium effects, together with the possibility of multiple gas temperatures. The dynamics and expected lifetimes of the gas clouds suggest that they do not originate from close to the AGN, but are instead formed close to their observed location. Their inferred distance, outflow velocities and gas densities are broadly consistent with scenarios involving gas entrainment or condensations in winds driven by either supernovae, or the supermassive black hole accretion disc. In the case of the latter, the present data most likely does not trace the bulk of the outflow by mass, which could instead manifest itself as an accompanying warm absorber, detectable in X-rays.
    Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 03/2014; 440(4). DOI:10.1093/mnras/stu518 · 5.23 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.
    Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 02/2014; 445(2). DOI:10.1093/mnras/stu1827 · 5.23 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The VST ATLAS is a ugriz-imaging survey targeting ~ 4500 square degrees of the southern sky. It reaches similar magnitude limits to the Sloan Digital Sky Survey in the north, i.e., r ~ 22.5, but ATLAS has better median seeing of 1 arcsecond full width half maximum. ATLAS is a companion survey to the VISTA Hemisphere Survey, which supplies YJHK imaging over much of its area. In addition, the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) satellite supplies a further four mid-infrared bands. Together these surveys complement each other and provide excellent multi-wavelength data for both Galactic and extragalactic science projects.
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    ABSTRACT: We present results of a blind survey of Lyman limit systems (LLSs) detected in absorption against 105 quasars at z~3 using the blue sensitive MagE spectrograph at the Magellan Clay telescope. By searching for Lyman limit absorption in the wavelength range ~3000-4000A, we measure the number of LLSs per unit redshift l(z)=1.21+/-0.28 at z~2.8. Using a stacking analysis, we further estimate the mean free path of ionizing photons in the z~3 Universe lambda^912 = 100+/-29 Mpc/h_70.4. Combined with our LLS survey, we conclude that systems with log N_HI >= 17.5 cm^-2 contribute only ~40% to the observed mean free path at these redshifts. Further, with the aid of photo-ionization modeling, we infer that a population of ionized and metal poor systems is likely required to reproduce the metal line strengths observed in a composite spectrum of 20 LLSs with N_HI = 17.5-19 cm^-2 at z~2.6-3.0. Finally, with a simple toy model, we deduce that gas in the halos of galaxies can alone account for the totality of LLSs at z<~3, but a progressively higher contribution from the intergalactic medium is required beyond z~3.5. We also show how the weakly evolving number of LLSs per unit redshift at z<~3 can be modeled either by requiring that the spatial extent of the circumgalactic medium is redshift invariant in the last ~10 Gyr of cosmic evolution or by postulating that LLSs arise in halos that are rare fluctuations in the density field at each redshift.
    The Astrophysical Journal 08/2013; 775(1). DOI:10.1088/0004-637X/775/1/78 · 6.28 Impact Factor
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    Matthew McQuinn, Gabor Worseck
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    ABSTRACT: Previous studies of the 2.2 < z< 2.7 HeII Lyman-alpha forest measured much larger ionizing background fluctuations than are anticipated theoretically. We re-analyze recent Hubble Space Telescope data from the two HeII sightlines that have been used to make these measurements, HE2347-4342 and HS1700+6416, and find that the vast majority of the absorption is actually consistent with a single HeII photoionization rate. We show that the data constrains the RMS fractional fluctuation level smoothed at 1 Mpc to be < 2 and discuss why other studies had found larger fluctuations. Our measurement is consistent with models in which quasars dominate the z=2.5 metagalactic HeII-ionizing background (but it can accommodate less compelling models), and it suggests that quasars (rather than stars) are the dominant contributor to the HI-ionizing background. We detect a HeII transverse proximity effect that is slightly offset in redshift from a known quasar. Its profile and offset may indicate that the quasar turned on 10 Myr ago.
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    ABSTRACT: We present new measurements of the mean transmitted flux in the Ly-alpha forest over 2 < z < 5 made using 6065 quasar spectra from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey DR7. We exploit the general lack of evolution in the mean quasar continuum to avoid the bias introduced by continuum fitting over the Ly-alpha forest at high redshifts, which has been the primary systematic uncertainty in previous measurements of the mean Ly-alpha transmission. The individual spectra are first combined into twenty-six composites with mean redshifts spanning 2.25 < z_comp < 5.08. The flux ratios of separate composites at the same rest wavelength are then used, without continuum fitting, to infer the mean transmitted flux, F(z), as a fraction of its value at z~2. Absolute values for F(z) are found by scaling our relative values to measurements made from high-resolution data by Faucher-Giguere et al. (2008) at z < 2.5, where continuum uncertainties are minimal. We find that F(z) evolves smoothly with redshift, with no evidence of a previously reported feature at z~3.2. This trend is consistent with a gradual evolution of the ionization and thermal state of the intergalactic medium over 2 < z < 5. Our results generally agree with the most careful measurements to date made from high-resolution data, but offer much greater precision and extend to higher redshifts. This work also improves upon previous efforts using SDSS spectra by significantly reducing the level of systematic error.
    Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 08/2012; 430(3). DOI:10.1093/mnras/stt031 · 5.23 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: We present the first search for galaxy counterparts of intervening high-z (2<z< 3.6) sub-DLAs and DLAs towards GRBs. Our final sample comprises of five intervening sub-DLAs and DLAs in four GRB fields. To identify candidate galaxy counterparts of the absorbers we use deep optical and near-infrared imaging, and low-, mid- and high-resolution spectroscopy acquired with 6 to 10-m class telescopes, the Hubble and the Spitzer space telescopes. Furthermore, we use the spectroscopic information and spectral-energy-distribution fitting techniques to study them in detail. Our main result is the detection and spectroscopic confirmation of the galaxy counterpart of the intervening DLA at z=3.096 in the field of GRB 070721B (z_GRB=3.6298) as proposed by other authors. We also identify good candidates for the galaxy counterparts of the two strong MgII absorbers at z=0.6915 and 1.4288 towards GRB 050820A (z_GRB=2.615). The properties of the detected DLA galaxy are typical for Lyman-break galaxies (LBGs) at similar redshifts; a young, highly starforming galaxy that shows evidence for a galactic outflow. This supports the hypothesis that a DLA can be the gaseous halo of an LBG. In addition, we report a redshift coincidence of different objects associated with metal lines in the same field, separated by 130-161 kpc. The high detection rate of three correlated structures on a length scale as small as ~150 kpc in two pairs of lines of sight is intriguing. The absorbers in each of these are most likely not part of the same gravitationally bound structure. They more likely represent groups of galaxies.
    Astronomy and Astrophysics 07/2012; 546. DOI:10.1051/0004-6361/201118647 · 4.48 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: On 2012 May 17.2 UT, only 1.5 +/- 0.2 d after explosion, we discovered SN 2012cg, a Type Ia supernova (SN Ia) in NGC 4424 (d ~ 15 Mpc). As a result of the newly modified strategy employed by the Lick Observatory SN Search, a sequence of filtered images was obtained starting 161 s after discovery. Utilizing recent models describing the interaction of SN ejecta with a companion star, we rule out a ~1 M_Sun companion for half of all viewing angles and a red-giant companion for nearly all orientations. SN 2012cg reached a B-band maximum of 12.09 +/- 0.02 mag on 2012 June 2.0 and took ~17.3 d from explosion to reach this, typical for SNe Ia. Our pre-maximum brightness photometry shows a narrower-than-average B-band light curve for SN 2012cg, though slightly overluminous at maximum brightness and with normal color evolution (including some of the earliest SN Ia filtered photometry ever obtained). Spectral fits to SN 2012cg reveal ions typically found in SNe Ia at early times, with expansion velocities >14,000 km/s at 2.5 d past explosion. Absorption from C II is detected early, as well as high-velocity components of both Si II 6355 Ang. and Ca II. Our last spectrum (13.5 d past explosion) resembles that of the somewhat peculiar SN Ia 1999aa. This suggests that SN 2012cg will have a slower-than-average declining light curve, which may be surprising given the faster-than-average rising light curve.
    The Astrophysical Journal Letters 06/2012; 756(1). DOI:10.1088/2041-8205/756/1/L7 · 5.60 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The HI 21cm absorption optical depth and the N(HI) derived from Lya absorption can be combined to yield the spin temperature (Ts) of DLAs. Although Ts measurements exist for samples of DLAs with z <0.6 and z >1.7, the intermediate redshift regime currently contains only 2 HI 21cm detections, leading to a `redshift desert' that spans 4 Gyrs of cosmic time. To connect the low and high z regimes, we present observations of the Lya line of six 0.6<z<1.7 HI 21cm absorbers. The dataset is complemented by both VLBA observations (to derive the absorber covering factor, f), and optical echelle spectra from which metal abundances are determined. Our dataset therefore not only offers the largest statistical study of HI 21cm absorbers to date, and bridges the redshift desert, but is also the first to use a fully f-corrected dataset to look for metallicity-based trends. In agreement with trends found in Galactic sightlines, we find that the lowest N(HI) absorbers tend to be dominated by warm gas. In the DLA regime, spin temperatures show a wider range of values than Galactic data, as may be expected in a heterogenous galactic population. However, we find that low metallicity DLAs are dominated by small cold gas fractions and only absorbers with relatively high metallicities exhibit significant fractions of cold gas. Using a compilation of HI 21cm absorbers which are selected to have f-corrected spin temperatures, we confirm an anti-correlation between metallicity and Ts at 3.4 sigma significance. Finally, one of the DLAs in our sample is a newly-discovered HI 21cm absorber (at z=0.602 towards J1431+3952), which we find to have the lowest f-corrected spin temperature yet reported in the literature: Ts=90+-23 K. The observed distribution of Ts and metallicities in DLAs and the implications for understanding the characteristics of the interstellar medium in high redshift galaxies are discussed.
    Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 05/2012; 424(1). DOI:10.1111/j.1365-2966.2012.21194.x · 5.23 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: We present the first science results from our Hubble Space Telescope Survey for Lyman limit absorption systems (LLS) using the low dispersion spectroscopic modes of the Advanced Camera for Surveys and the Wide Field Camera 3. Through an analysis of 71 quasars, we determine the incidence frequency of LLS per unit redshift and per unit path length, l(z) and l(x) respectively, over the redshift range 1 < z< 2.6, and find a weighted mean of l(x)=0.29 +/-0.05 for 2.0 < z < 2.5 through a joint analysis of our sample and that of Ribaudo et al. (2011). Through stacked spectrum analysis, we determine a median (mean) value of the mean free path to ionizing radiation at z=2.4 of lambda_mfp = 243(252)h^(-1) Mpc, with an error on the mean value of +/- 43h^(-1) Mpc. We also re-evaluate the estimates of lambda_mfp from Prochaska et al. (2009) and place constraints on the evolution of lambda_mfp with redshift, including an estimate of the "breakthrough" redshift of z = 1.6. Consistent with results at higher z, we find that a significant fraction of the opacity for absorption of ionizing photons comes from systems with N_HI <= 10^{17.5} cm^(-2) with a value for the total Lyman opacity of tau_lyman = 0.40 +/- 0.15. Finally, we determine that at minimum, a 5-parameter (4 power-law) model is needed to describe the column density distribution function f(N_HI, X) at z \sim 2.4, find that f(N_HI,X) undergoes no significant change in shape between z \sim 2.4 and z \sim 3.7, and provide our best fit model for f(N_HI,X).
    The Astrophysical Journal 04/2012; 765(2). DOI:10.1088/0004-637X/765/2/137 · 6.28 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: We obtained galaxy spectra for this project using the VIMOS multi-object spectrograph on the VLT. (2 data files).
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    ABSTRACT: Understanding the origin and diversity of emission processes responsible for gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) remains a pressing challenge. While prompt and contemporaneous panchromatic observations have the potential to test predictions of the internal-external shock model, extensive multiband imaging has been conducted for only a few GRBs. We present rich, early-time, multiband data sets for two Swift events, GRB 110205A and GRB 110213A. The former shows optical emission since the early stages of the prompt phase, followed by the steep rising in flux up to ~1000 s after the burst (t –α with α = –6.13 ± 0.75). We discuss this feature in the context of the reverse-shock scenario and interpret the following single power-law decay as being forward-shock dominated. Polarization measurements, obtained with the RINGO2 instrument mounted on the Liverpool Telescope, also provide hints on the nature of the emitting ejecta. The latter event, instead, displays a very peculiar optical to near-infrared light curve, with two achromatic peaks. In this case, while the first peak is probably due to the onset of the afterglow, we interpret the second peak to be produced by newly injected material, signifying a late-time activity of the central engine.
    The Astrophysical Journal 12/2011; 743(2):154. DOI:10.1088/0004-637X/743/2/154 · 6.28 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The Lick AGN Monitoring Project 2011 observing campaign was carried out over the course of 11 weeks in Spring 2011. Here we present the first results from this program, a measurement of the broad-line reverberation lag in the Seyfert 1 galaxy Mrk 50. Combining our data with supplemental observations obtained prior to the start of the main observing campaign, our dataset covers a total duration of 4.5 months. During this time, Mrk 50 was highly variable, exhibiting a maximum variability amplitude of a factor of 4 in the U-band continuum and a factor of 2 in the H-beta line. Using standard cross-correlation techniques, we find that H-beta and H-gamma lag the V-band continuum by tau_cen = 10.64(-0.93,+0.82) and 8.43(-1.28,+1.30) days, respectively, while the lag of He II 4686 is unresolved. The H-beta line exhibits a symmetric velocity-resolved reverberation signature with shorter lags in the high-velocity wings than in the line core, consistent with an origin in a broad-line region dominated by orbital motion rather than infall or outflow. Assuming a virial normalization factor of f=5.25, the virial estimate of the black hole mass is (3.2+-0.5)*10^7 solar masses. These observations demonstrate that Mrk 50 is among the most promising nearby active galaxies for detailed investigations of broad-line region structure and dynamics.
    The Astrophysical Journal Letters 10/2011; 743. DOI:10.1088/2041-8205/743/1/L4 · 5.60 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Understanding the origin and diversity of emission processes responsible for Gamma-ray Bursts (GRBs) remains a pressing challenge. While prompt and contemporaneous panchromatic observations have the potential to test predictions of the internal-external shock model, extensive multiband imaging has been conducted for only a few GRBs. We present rich, early-time, multiband datasets for two \swift\ events, GRB 110205A and GRB 110213A. The former shows optical emission since the early stages of the prompt phase, followed by the steep rising in flux up to ~1000s after the burst ($t^{-\alpha}$ with $\alpha=-6.13 \pm 0.75$). We discuss this feature in the context of the reverse-shock scenario and interpret the following single power-law decay as being forward-shock dominated. Polarization measurements, obtained with the RINGO2 instrument mounted on the Liverpool Telescope, also provide hints on the nature of the emitting ejecta. The latter event, instead, displays a very peculiar optical to near-infrared lightcurve, with two achromatic peaks. In this case, while the first peak is probably due to the onset of the afterglow, we interpret the second peak to be produced by newly injected material, signifying a late-time activity of the central engine.
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    ABSTRACT: We report on the detection of strongly varying intergalactic He II absorption in HST/COS spectra of two z em 3 quasars. From our homogeneous analysis of the He II absorption in these and three archival sightlines, we find a marked increase in the mean He II effective optical depth from at z 2.3 to at z 3.2, but with a large scatter of at 2.7 < z < 3 on scales of ~10 proper Mpc. This scatter is primarily due to fluctuations in the He II fraction and the He II-ionizing background, rather than density variations that are probed by the coeval H I forest. Semianalytic models of He II absorption require a strong decrease in the He II-ionizing background to explain the strong increase of the absorption at z 2.7, probably indicating He II reionization was incomplete at z reion 2.7. Likewise, recent three-dimensional numerical simulations of He II reionization qualitatively agree with the observed trend only if He II reionization completes at z reion 2.7 or even below, as suggested by a large in two of our five sightlines at z < 2.8. By doubling the sample size at 2.7 z 3, our newly discovered He II sightlines for the first time probe the diversity of the second epoch of reionization when helium became fully ionized.
    The Astrophysical Journal Letters 05/2011; 733(2):L24. DOI:10.1088/2041-8205/733/2/L24 · 5.60 Impact Factor
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    Gábor Worseck, J. Xavier Prochaska
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    ABSTRACT: We study the small population of high-redshift (z em>2.7) quasars detected by the Galaxy Evolution Explorer(GALEX), whose far-UV emission is not extinguished by intervening H I Lyman limit systems. These quasars are of particular importance to detect intergalactic He II absorption along their sight lines. We correlate almost all verified z em>2.7 quasars to the GALEX GR4 source catalog covering ~ 25,000 deg2, yielding 304 sources detected at signal-to-noise ratio (S/N) >3. However, ~50% of these are only detected in the GALEX NUV band, signaling the truncation of the FUV flux by low-redshift optically thick Lyman limit systems. We exploit the GALEX UV color m FUV - m NUV to cull the most promising targets for follow-up studies, with blue (red) GALEX colors indicating transparent (opaque) sight lines. Extensive Monte Carlo simulations indicate an He II detection rate of ~60% for quasars with m FUV - m NUV 2 detections in the FUV. Combining the statistical properties of H I absorbers with the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) quasar luminosity function, we predict a large all-sky population of ~200 quasars with z em>2.7 and i
    The Astrophysical Journal 02/2011; 728. DOI:10.1088/0004-637X/728/1/23 · 6.28 Impact Factor

Publication Stats

429 Citations
117.94 Total Impact Points

Institutions

  • 2013–2014
    • Max Planck Institute for Astronomy
      Heidelburg, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
    • Saint Michael's College
      Colchester, Vermont, United States
  • 2012
    • University of Szeged
      • Department of Optics and Quantum Electronics
      Algyő, Csongrád, Hungary
  • 2009–2012
    • University of California, Santa Cruz
      • Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics
      Santa Cruz, California, United States
  • 2007
    • University of Hamburg
      Hamburg, Hamburg, Germany