Characterizing the circumgalactic medium of quasars at z 2.2 through H α and Ly α emission

Vivienne Langen*, Sebastiano Cantalupo*, Charles C. Steidel, Yuguang Chen, Gabriele Pezzulli, Sofia G. Gallego

*Corresponding author for this work

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The discovery of giant quasar Ly α nebulae at z > 2 has opened up the possibility to directly study in emission the Circumgalactic and Intergalactic Medium (CGM/IGM). However, the resonant nature of the Ly α line and its different emission mechanisms hamper the ability to constrain both the kinematics and physical properties of the CGM/IGM. Here, we present results of a pilot project aiming at the detection of CGM H α emission, a line which does not suffer from these limitations. To this end, we first used KCWI to detect Ly α emission around three bright quasars with 2.25 < z < 2.27, a range which is free from bright IR sky lines for H α, and then selected the most extended nebula for H α follow-up with MOSFIRE. Within the MOSFIRE slit, we detected H α emission extending up to 20 physical kpc with a total H α flux of FH α = (9.5 ± 0.9) × 10$^{-18}~\mathrm{erg\, s^{-1}\, cm^{-2}}$. Considering the Ly α flux in the same region, we found FLy α/FH α = 3.7 ± 0.3 consistent with that obtained for the Slug Nebula at z = 2.275 and with recombination radiation. This implies high densities or a very broad density distribution within the CGM of high-redshift quasars. Moreover, the H α line profile suggests the presence of multiple emitting components overlapping along our line of sight and relatively quiescent kinematics, which seems incompatible with either quasar outflows capable of escaping the potential well of the host halo or disc-like rotation in a massive halo (>1012 M).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5099-5113
Number of pages15
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1-Mar-2023


  • galaxies: haloes
  • galaxies: high-redshift
  • intergalactic medium
  • galaxies: kinematics and dynamics
  • quasars: emission lines
  • infrared: ISM
  • Astrophysics - Astrophysics of Galaxies

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