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Ten More New Sightlines for the Study of Intergalactic Helium, and Hundreds of Far-Ultraviolet-Bright Quasars, from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, Galaxy Evolution Explorer, and Hubble Space Telescope

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)20-31
Number of pages12
JournalThe Astrophysical Journal Supplement Series
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2009


Absorption along quasar sightlines remains among the most sensitive direct measures of He II reionization in much of the intergalactic medium (IGM). Until recently, fewer than a half-dozen unobscured quasar sightlines suitable for the He II Gunn-Peterson test were known; although these handful demonstrated great promise, the small sample size limited confidence in cosmological inferences. We have recently added nine more such clean He II quasars, exploiting Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) quasar samples, broadband ultraviolet (UV) imaging from Galaxy Evolution Explorer (GALEX), and high-yield UV spectroscopic confirmations from Hubble Space Telescope (HST). Here we markedly expand this approach by cross-correlating SDSS DR7 and GALEX GR4+5 to catalog 428 SDSS and 165 other quasars with z > 2.78 having likely (~70%) GALEX detections, suggesting they are bright into the far-UV. Reconnaissance HST Cycle 16 Supplemental prism data for 29 of these new quasar-GALEX matches spectroscopically confirm 17 as indeed far-UV bright. At least 10 of these confirmations have clean sightlines all the way down to He II Lyα, substantially expanding the number of known clean He II quasars, and reaffirming the order of magnitude enhanced efficiency of our selection technique. Combined confirmations from this and our past programs yield more than 20 He II quasars, quintupling the sample. These provide substantial progress toward a sample of He II quasar sightlines large enough, and spanning a sufficient redshift range, to enable statistical IGM studies that may avoid individual object peculiarity and sightline variance. Our expanded catalog of hundreds of high-likelihood far-UV-bright QSOs additionally will be useful for understanding the extreme-UV properties of the quasars themselves.
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.

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