G. Letawe

University of Iceland, Reikiavik, Capital Region, Iceland

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Publications (36)145.11 Total impact

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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; · 5.08 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The far-infrared excesses produced by debris disks are common features of stellar systems. These disks are thought to contain solids ranging from micron-sized dust to planetesimals. Naturally, their formation and evolution are linked to those of potential planets. With this motivation, the Herschel open time key programme DUNES (DUst around NEarby Stars) aims at further characterising known debris disks and discovering new ones in the regime explored by the Herschel space observatory. On the one hand, in their survey of 133 nearby FGK stars, DUNES discovered a class of extremely cold and faint debris disks, different from well-known disks such as the one around Vega in that their inferred typical grain sizes are rather large, indicating low dynamical excitation and low collision rates. On the other hand, for the more massive disk around the sun-like star HD 207129, well-resolved PACS images confirmed the ring-liked structure seen in HST images and provided valuable information for an in-depth study and benchmark for models. Employing both models for power-law fitting and collisional evolution we found the disk around HD 207129 to feature low collision rates and large grains, as well. Transport by means of Poynting-Robertson drag likely plays a role in replenishing the dust seen closer to the star, inside of the ring. The inner edge is therefore rather smooth and the contribution from the extended halo of barely bound grains is small. Both slowly self-stirring and planetary perturbations could potentially have formed and shaped this disk (© 2012 WILEY-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim)
    Astronomische Nachrichten 06/2012; 333(5‐6). · 1.40 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: We present 10 new gamma-ray burst (GRB) redshifts and another five redshift limits based on host galaxy spectroscopy obtained as part of a large program conducted at the Very Large Telescope (VLT). The redshifts span the range 0.345 < z < 2.54. Three of our measurements revise incorrect values from the literature. The homogeneous host sample researched here consists of 69 hosts that originally had a redshift completeness of 55% (with 38 out of 69 hosts having redshifts considered secure). Our project, including VLT/X-shooter observations reported elsewhere, increases this fraction to 77% (53/69), making the survey the most comprehensive in terms of redshift completeness of any sample to the full Swift depth, analyzed to date. We present the cumulative redshift distribution and derive a conservative, yet small, associated uncertainty. We constrain the fraction of Swift GRBs at high redshift to a maximum of 14% (5%) for z > 6 (z > 7). The mean redshift of the host sample is assessed to be > 2.2, with the 10 new redshifts reducing it significantly. Using this more complete sample, we confirm previous findings that the GRB rate at high redshift (z > 3) appears to be in excess of predictions based on assumptions that it should follow conventional determinations of the star formation history of the universe, combined with an estimate of its likely metallicity dependence. This suggests that either star formation at high redshifts has been significantly underestimated, for example due to a dominant contribution from faint, undetected galaxies, or that GRB production is enhanced in the conditions of early star formation, beyond that usually ascribed to lower metallicity.
    The Astrophysical Journal 05/2012; 752(1). · 6.73 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Debris disks, which are inferred from the observed infrared excess to be ensembles of dust, rocks, and probably planetesimals, are common features of stellar systems. As the mechanisms of their formation and evolution are linked to those of planetary bodies, they provide valuable information. The few well-resolved debris disks are even more valuable because they can serve as modelling benchmarks and help resolve degeneracies in modelling aspects such as typical grain sizes and distances. Here, we present an analysis of the HD 207129 debris disk, based on its well-covered spectral energy distribution and Herschel/PACS images obtained in the framework of the DUNES (DUst around NEarby Stars) programme. We use an empirical power-law approach to the distribution of dust and we then model the production and removal of dust by means of collisions, direct radiation pressure, and drag forces. The resulting best-fit model contains a total of nearly 10-2 Earth masses in dust, with typical grain sizes in the planetesimal belt ranging from 4 to 7 μm. We constrain the dynamical excitation to be low, which results in very long collisional lifetimes and a drag that notably fills the inner gap, especially at 70 μm. The radial distribution stretches from well within 100 AU in an unusual, outward-rising slope towards a rather sharp outer edge at about 170-190 AU. The inner edge is therefore smoother than that reported for Fomalhaut, but the contribution from the extended halo of barely bound grains is similarly small. Both slowly self-stirring and planetary perturbations could potentially have formed and shaped this disk. Herschel is an ESA space observatory with science instruments provided by European-led Principal Investigator consortia and with important participation from NASA.
    Astronomy and Astrophysics 01/2012; 537:A110. · 5.08 Impact Factor
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    G. Letawe, P. Magain
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    ABSTRACT: The QSO HE0450-2958 and the companion galaxy with which it is interacting, both ultra luminous in the infrared, have been the subject of much attention in recent years, as the quasar host galaxy remained undetected. This led to various interpretations on QSO and galaxy formation and co-evolution, such as black hole ejection, jet induced star formation, dust obscured galaxy, or normal host below the detection limit. We carried out deep observations in the near-IR in order to solve the puzzle concerning the existence of any host. The object was observed with the ESO VLT and HAWK-I in the near-IR J-band for 8 hours. The images have been processed with the MCS deconvolution method (Magain, Courbin & Sohy, 1998), permitting accurate subtraction of the QSO light from the observations. The compact emission region situated close to the QSO, called the blob, which previously showed only gas emission lines in the optical spectra, is now detected in our near-IR images. Its high brightness implies that stars likely contribute to the near-IR emission. The blob might thus be interpreted as an off-centre, bright and very compact host galaxy, involved in a violent collision with its companion. Comment: 4 pages, 3 figures, accepted for publication in A&A
    Astronomy and Astrophysics 03/2010; · 5.08 Impact Factor
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    Y. Letawe, G. Letawe, P. Magain
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    ABSTRACT: We analyse a sample of 69 QSOs which have been randomly selected in a complete sample of 104 QSOs (R<18, 0.142 < z < 0.198). 60 have been observed with the NTT/SUSI2 at La Silla, through two filters in the optical band (WB#655 and V#812), and the remaining 9 are taken from archive databases. The filter V#812 contains the redshifted Hbeta and forbidden [OIII] emission lines, while WB#655 covers a spectral region devoid of emission lines, thus measuring the QSO and stellar continua. The contributions of the QSO and the host are separated thanks to the MCS deconvolution algorithm, allowing a morphological classification of the host, and the computation of several parameters such as the host and nucleus absolute V-magnitude, distance between the luminosity center of the host and the QSO, and colour of the host and nucleus. We define a new asymmetry coefficient, independent of any galaxy models and well suited for QSO host studies. The main results from this study are: (i) 25% of the total number of QSO hosts are spirals, 51% are ellipticals and 60% show signs of interaction; (ii) Highly asymmetric systems tend to have a higher gas ionization level (iii) Elliptical hosts contain a substantial amount of ionized gas, and some show off-nuclear activity. These results agree with hierarchical models merger driven evolution. Comment: accepted for publication in MNRAS, 19 pages, 22 figures, 8 tables
    Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 01/2010; · 5.52 Impact Factor
  • Yannick Letawe, Géraldine Letawe, Pierre Magain
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    ABSTRACT: We present the results of a study of the host galaxies of a few bright low redshift quasars, based on a combination of high resolution HST/ACS images with deep VLT spectra. Using a version of the MCS deconvolution algorithm specially adapted to HST images, the light from the central point source can be efficiently removed, which allows to study the environment of the quasar down to a few hundreds of parsecs from the center. In a similar way, the spectra can be separated into a quasar contribution and a spatially resolved slit spectrum of the host galaxy. Combining the images and spectra allows to carry out a detailed analysis of the immediate environment of the quasar: excitation and ionization state of the gas, dynamics… Up to now, this method has been applied to six quasars, including the peculiar HE0450-2958 (Magain et al. in Nature 437:381, 2005), for which no host galaxy could be detected.
    12/2009: pages 197-201;
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    Géraldine Letawe, Yannick Letawe, Pierre Magain
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    ABSTRACT: The major challenge in studying QSO host galaxies is to remove the QSO contribution, which often outshines the whole system. Our group has acquired the technical ability to handle such data, for images and slit spectroscopy, as well as integral field spectroscopy. We review here the major techniques developed by our team, and their latest applications. We are open for collaboration with other teams to spread the use of these powerful techniques.
    Proceedings of the International Astronomical Union 07/2009; 5:117 - 117.
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    ABSTRACT: We discuss observational evidence that quasars play a key role in the formation of galaxies starting from the detailed study of the quasar HE0450-2958 and extending the discussion to a series of converging evidence that radio jets may trigger galaxy formation. The direct detection with VISIR at the ESO-VLT of the 7 kpc distant companion galaxy of HE0450-2958 allows us to spatially separate the sites of quasar and star formation activity in this composite system made of two ultra-luminous infrared galaxies (ULIRGs). No host galaxy has yet been detected for this quasar, but the companion galaxy stellar mass would bring HE0450-2958 in the local M(BH)-M(stellar bulge) relation if it were to merge with the QSO. This is bound to happen because of their close distance (7 kpc) and small relative velocity (~60-200 km/s). We conclude that we may be witnessing the building of the M(BH)-M(stellar bulge) relation, or at least of a major event in that process. The star formation rate (~340 Msun/yr), age (40-200 Myr) and stellar mass ([5-6]x10^10 Msun) are consistent with jet-induced formation of the companion galaxy. We suggest that HE0450-2958 may be fueled in fresh material by cold gas accretion from intergalactic filaments. We map the projected galaxy density surrounding the QSO as a potential tracer of intergalactic filaments and discuss a putative detection. Comparison to other systems suggests that inside-out formation of quasar host galaxies and jet-induced galaxy formation may be a common process. Two tests are proposed for this new paradigm: (1) the detection of offset molecular gas or dust emission with respect to the position of distant QSOs, (2) the delayed formation of host galaxies as a result of QSO activity, hence the two step building of the M(BH)/M(stellar bulge) ratio. Comment: 15 pages, 8 figures, accepted for publication in Astronomy and Astrophysics (with minor corrections)
    Astronomy and Astrophysics 07/2009; · 5.08 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The luminous z = 0.286 quasar HE 0450-2958 is interacting with a companion galaxy at 6.5 kpc distance and the whole system radiates in the infrared (IR) at the level of an ultraluminous infrared galaxy (ULIRG). A so far undetected host galaxy triggered the hypothesis of a mostly "naked" black hole (BH) ejected from the companion by three-body interaction. We present new Hubble Space Telescope (HST)/NICMOS 1.6 mum imaging data at 0farcs1 resolution and VLT/VISIR 11.3 mum images at 0farcs35 resolution that are for the first time resolving the system in the near- and mid-infrared. We combine these data with existing optical HST and CO maps. (1) At 1.6 mum we find an extension NE of the quasar nucleus that is likely a part of the host galaxy, though not its main body. If true, a combination with upper limits on a main body co-centered with the quasar brackets the host-galaxy luminosity to within a factor of ~4 and places HE 0450-2958 directly onto the M BH - M bulge relation for nearby galaxies. (2) A dust-free line of sight to the quasar suggests a low dust obscuration of the host galaxy, but the formal upper limit for star formation (SF) lies at 60 M sun yr-1. HE 0450-2958 is consistent with lying at the high-luminosity end of Narrow-Line Seyfert 1 Galaxies, and more exotic explanations like a "naked quasar" are unlikely. (3) All 11.3 mum radiation in the system is emitted by the quasar nucleus. It has warm ULIRG-strength IR emission powered by BH accretion and is radiating at super-Eddington rate, L/L Edd = 6.2+3.8 -1.8, or 12 M sun yr-1. (4) The companion galaxy is covered in optically thick dust and is not a collisional ring galaxy. It emits in the far-infrared at ULIRG strength, powered by Arp220-like SF (strong starburst-like). An M82-like SED is ruled out. (5) With its BH accretion rate, HE 0450-2958 produces not enough new stars to maintain its position on the M BH - M bulge relation, and SF and BH accretion are spatially disjoint. This relation can either only be maintained averaging over a longer timescale (lsim500 Myr) and/or the bulge has to grow by redistribution of pre-existing stars. (6) Systems similar to HE 0450-2958 with spatially disjoint ULIRG-strength star formation and quasar activity might be common at high redshifts but at z < 0.43 we only find
    The Astrophysical Journal 01/2009; 700(2):1820-1830. · 6.73 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The quasi-stellar object (QSO) HE0450-2958 was brought to the front scene by the non-detection of its host galaxy and strong upper limits on the latter's luminosity. The QSO is also a powerful infrared emitter, in gravitational interaction with a strongly distorted ultraluminous infrared companion galaxy. We investigate the properties of the companion galaxy, through new near- and mid-infrared observations of the system obtained with Near Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer (NICMOS) onboard Hubble Space Telescope, Infrared Spectrometer and Array Camera (ISAAC) and Very Large Telescope Imager and Spectrometer in the Infrared (VISIR) on the European Southern Observatory Very Large Telescope. The companion galaxy is found to harbour a point source revealed only in the infrared, in what appears as a hole or dark patch in the optical images. Various hypotheses on the nature of this point source are analysed and it is found that the only plausible one is that it is a strongly reddened active galactic nucleus hidden behind a thick dust cloud. The hypothesis that the QSO supermassive black hole might have been ejected from the companion galaxy in the course of a galactic collision involving three-body black holes interaction is also reviewed, on the basis of this new insight on a definitely complex system. Based on observations made with the ESO Very Large Telescope at ESO Paranal Observatory, Chile, under program IDs 076.B-0693(C), 276.B-5011 and NASA/ESA HST program 10797 during cycle 15. E-mail: gletawe@ulg.ac.be
    Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 01/2009; 396(1):78-84. · 5.52 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: We investigate correlations between the direction of the optical linear polarization and the orientation of the host galaxy/extended emission for type1 and type2 radio-loud and radio-quiet quasars. We have used high resolution Hubble Space Telescope data and a deconvolution process to obtain a good determination of the host galaxy/extended emission (EE) position angle. With these new measurements and a compilation of data from the literature, we find a significant correlation, different for type1 and type2 objects, between the linear polarization position angle and the orientation of the EE, suggesting scattering by an extended UV/blue region in both types of objects. Our observations support the extension of the Unification Model to the higher luminosity AGNs like the quasars, assuming a two component scattering model.
    10/2008;
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    ABSTRACT: The host galaxies of six nearby QSOs are studied on the basis of high resolution HST optical images and spatially resolved VLT slit spectra. The gas ionization and velocity are mapped as a function of the distance to the central QSO. In the majority of the cases, the QSO significantly contributes to the gas ionization in its whole host galaxy, and sometimes even outside. Reflection or scattering of the QSO \ha line from remote regions of the galaxy is detected in several instances. The line shifts show that, in all cases, the matter responsible for the light reflection moves away from the QSO, likely accelerated by its radiation pressure. The two faintest QSOs reside in spirals, with some signs of a past gravitational perturbation. One of the intermediate luminosity QSOs resides in a massive elliptical containing gas ionized (and probably pushed away) by the QSO radiation. The other medium-power object is found in a spiral galaxy displaying complex velocity structure, with the central QSO moving with respect to the bulge, probably as a result of a galactic collision. The two most powerful objects are involved in violent gravitational interactions and one of them has no detected host. These results suggest that (1) large-scale phenomena, such as galactic collisions, are closely related to the triggering and the feeding of the QSO and (2) once ignited, the QSO has significant influence on its large-scale neighborhood (often the whole host and sometimes further away). Comment: Accepted for publication in ApJ. 31 pages, 17 figures, 3 tables
    The Astrophysical Journal 02/2008; · 6.73 Impact Factor
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    G. Letawe, P. Magain, F. Courbin
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    ABSTRACT: Context. Interest in the quasar HE 0450-2958 arose following the publication of the non-detection of its expected massive host, leading to various interpretations.
    Astronomy and Astrophysics 01/2008; · 5.08 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The host galaxy of the QSO HE0354-5500 (M_B=-24.7, z=0.2674) is studied on the basis of high resolution HST optical images and spatially resolved VLT slit spectra. The morphology and dynamics of the host are described. The gas ionization and velocity are mapped as a function of the distance to the central QSO. Reflection or scattering of the QSO Halpha line from remote regions of the galaxy is detected. The line shifts show that the matter responsible for the light reflection moves away from the QSO, likely accelerated by its radiation pressure. Moreover, different resolved emission regions are found in the central kpc, both in the images and the spectra.
    Memorie della Societa Astronomica Italiana. 01/2008;
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    ABSTRACT: We investigate correlations between the optical linear polarization position angle and the orientation of the host galaxy/extended emission of Type 1 and Type 2 Radio-Loud (RL) and Radio-Quiet (RQ) quasars. We have used high resolution Hubble Space Telescope (HST) data and deconvolution process to obtain a good determination of the host galaxy orientation. With these new measurements and a compilation of data from the literature, we find a significant correlation between the polarization position angle and the position angle of the major axis of the host galaxy/extended emission. The correlation appears different for Type 1 and Type 2 objects and depends on the redshift of the source. Interpretations in the framework of the unification model are discussed.
    Revista Mexicana de Astronomía y Astrofísica : Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México. Instituto de Astronomía. 01/2008;
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    ABSTRACT: For Seyfert galaxies, the AGN unification model provides a simple and well established explanation of the Type 1/Type 2 dichotomy through orientation based effects. The generalization of this unification model to the higher luminosity AGNs that are the quasars remains a key question. The recent detection of Type 2 Radio-Quiet quasars seems to support such an extension. We propose to further test this scenario. On the basis of a compilation of quasar host galaxy position angles consisting of previously published data and of new measurements performed using HST Archive images, we investigate the possible existence of a correlation between the linear polarization position angle and the host galaxy/extended emission position angle of quasars. We find that the orientation of the rest-frame UV/blue extended emission is correlated to the direction of the quasar polarization. For Type 1 quasars, the polarization is aligned with the extended UV/blue emission while these two quantities are perpendicular in Type 2 objects. This result is independent of the quasar radio-loudness. We interpret this (anti-)alignment effect in terms of scattering in a two-component polar+equatorial model which applies to both Type 1 and Type 2 objects. Moreover the orientation of the polarization -and then of the UV/blue scattered light- does not appear correlated to the major axis of the stellar component of the host galaxy measured from near-IR images. Comment: 14 pages, 6 figures, accepted for publication in A&A
    Astronomy and Astrophysics 10/2007; · 5.08 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: A high accuracy photometric reduction method is needed to take full advantage of the potential of the transit method for the detection and characterization of exoplanets, especially in deep crowded fields. In this context, we present DECPHOT, a new deconvolution-based photometry algorithm able to deal with a very high level of crowding and large variations of seeing. It also increases the resolution of astronomical images, an important advantage for the discrimination of false positives in transit photometry.
    02/2007;
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    ABSTRACT: In order to study the host galaxies of type 1 (broad-line) quasars, we present a semi-analytic modelling method to decompose the on-nucleus spectra of quasars into nuclear and host galaxy channels. The method uses the spatial information contained in long-slit or slitlet spectra. A routine determines the best-fitting combination of the spatial distribution of the point like nucleus and extended host galaxy. This is fully complementary to a numerical spatial deconvolution technique that we applied to the same data in a previous analysis, which allows a cross-calibration of the two methods. Inputs are a simultaneously observed point spread function, and external constraints on galaxy morphology from imaging. We demonstrate the capabilities of the method to two samples of a total of 18 quasars observed with EFOSC at the ESO 3.6-m telescope and FORS1 at the ESO VLT. ~50 per cent of the host galaxies with successful decomposition show distortions in their rotation curves or peculiar gas velocities above normal maximum velocities for discs. This is consistent with the fraction from optical imaging. All host galaxies have quite young stellar populations, typically 1-2 Gyr. For the disc dominated hosts these are consistent with their inactive counterparts, the luminosity-weighted stellar ages are much younger for the bulge dominated hosts, compared to inactive early-type galaxies. While this presents further evidence for a connection of galaxy interaction and active galactic nucleus (AGN) activity for half of the sample, this is not clear for the other half. These are often undistorted disc dominated host galaxies, and interaction on a smaller level might be detected in deeper high-resolution images or deeper spectroscopic data. The velocity information does not show obvious signs for large scale outflows triggered by AGN feedback - the data are consistent with velocity fields created by galaxy interaction. Based on observations made with telescopes at the European Southern Observatories La Silla and Paranal Observatories in Chile under programme IDs 60.B-0320 and 65.P-0361. E-mail: jahnke@mpia.de
    Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 01/2007; · 5.52 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: This table contains the measurements/compilation of host galaxy/ extended emission position angle in the visible and near-IR domain, polarimetric data, and radio axis orientation for the 135 quasars of our sample. The angles are given in degrees east of north. The table gives the spectral and the radio-loud/radio-quiet classification of each object according to the references. (2 data files).
    VizieR Online Data Catalog. 01/2007;