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HST/COS Observations of Thirteen New He II Quasars

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  • David Syphers
  • Scott F. Anderson
  • Wei Zheng
  • Avery Meiksin
  • Donald P. Schneider
  • Donald G. York

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Original languageEnglish
Article number100
JournalAstronomical Journal
Volume143
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2012

Abstract

The full reionization of intergalactic helium was a major event in the history of the intergalactic medium (IGM), and UV observations of the He II Gunn-Peterson trough allow us to characterize the end of this process at z ~ 3. Due to intervening hydrogen absorption, quasars allowing such study are rare, with only 33 known in the literature, and most of those are very recent discoveries. We expand on our previous discovery work, and present 13 new He II quasars with redshifts 2.82 < z < 3.77, here selected with ~80% efficiency, and including several that are much brighter than the vast majority of those previously known. This is the largest sample of uniformly observed He II quasars covering such a broad redshift range, and they show evidence of IGM opacity increasing with redshift, as expected for the helium reionization epoch. No evidence of He II Lyα quasar emission is seen in individual or averaged spectra, posing a problem for standard models of the broad-line region. The current rapid advance in the study of He II quasars has been greatly facilitated by the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph on the Hubble Space Telescope, and we discuss the instrumental and other subtleties that must be taken into account in IGM He II observations.
Based on observations with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope obtained at the Space Telescope Science Institute, which is operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc., under NASA contract NAS5-26555.

ID: 4177371