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The High-ion Content and Kinematics of Low-redshift Lyman Limit Systems

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  • Andrew J. Fox
  • Nicolas Lehner
  • Jason Tumlinson
  • J. Christopher Howk
  • Todd M. Tripp
  • J. Xavier Prochaska
  • John M. O'Meara
  • Jessica K. Werk
  • Rongmon Bordoloi
  • Neal Katz
  • Benjamin D. Oppenheimer
  • Romeel Davé

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)187
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 13 Nov 2013


We study the high-ion content and kinematics of the circumgalactic medium around low-redshift galaxies using a sample of 23 Lyman limit systems (LLSs) at 0.08 <z <0.93 observed with the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph on board the Hubble Space Telescope. In Lehner et al., we recently showed that low-z LLSs have a bimodal metallicity distribution. Here we extend that analysis to search for differences between the high-ion and kinematic properties of the metal-poor and metal-rich branches. We find that metal-rich LLSs tend to show higher O VI columns and broader O VI profiles than metal-poor LLSs. The total H I line width (Δv 90 statistic) in LLSs is not correlated with metallicity, indicating that the H I kinematics alone cannot be used to distinguish inflow from outflow and gas recycling. Among the 17 LLSs with O VI detections, all but two show evidence of kinematic sub-structure, in the form of O VI-H I centroid offsets, multiple components, or both. Using various scenarios for how the metallicities in the high-ion and low-ion phases of each LLS compare, we constrain the ionized hydrogen column in the O VI phase to lie in the range log N(H II) ~ 17.6-20. The O VI phase of LLSs is a substantial baryon reservoir, with M(high-ion) ~ 108.5-10.9 (r/150 kpc)2 M ⊙, similar to the mass in the low-ion phase. Accounting for the O VI phase approximately doubles the contribution of low-z LLSs to the cosmic baryon budget. Based on observations taken under programs 11508, 11520, 11541, 11598, 11692, 11741, 12025, 12038, and 12466 of 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 NAS 5-26555.

    Research areas

  • galaxies: halos, galaxies: kinematics and dynamics, intergalactic medium

ID: 57685914