Thursday, July 18, 2013

1307.4429 (Regina A. Jorgenson et al.)

The Magellan Uniform Survey of Damped Lyman alpha Systems I: Cosmic Metallicity Evolution    [PDF]

Regina A. Jorgenson, Michael T. Murphy, Rodger Thompson
We present the chemical abundance measurements of the first large, medium-resolution, uniformly selected damped Lyman alpha system (DLA) survey. The sample contains 99 DLAs towards 89 quasars selected from the SDSS DR5 DLA sample in a uniform way. We analyze the metallicities and kinematic diagnostics, including the velocity width of 90% of the optical depth, \Delta v_{90}, and the equivalent widths of the SiII 1526, CIV 1548 and MgII 2796 transitions. To avoid strong line-saturation effects on the metallicities measured in medium-resolution spectra (FWHM~71 km/s), we derived metallicities from metal transitions which absorbed at most 35% of the quasar continuum flux. We find the evolution in cosmic mean metallicity of the sample, = (-0.04 +- 0.013)z -(1.06 +- 0.36), consistent with no evolution over the redshift range z ~ [2.2, 4.4], but note that the majority of our sample falls at z ~ [2.2, 3.5]. The apparent lack of metallicity evolution with redshift is also seen in a lack of evolution in the median \Delta v_{90} and SiII 1526 equivalent width values. While this result may seem to conflict with other large surveys that have detected significant metallicity evolution, such as Rafelski et al. 2012 who found = (-0.22 +- 0.03)z - (0.65 +- 0.09) over z ~ [0, 5], several tests show that these surveys are not inconsistent with our new result. However, over the smaller redshift range covered by our uniformly-selected sample, the true evolution of the cosmic mean metallicity in DLAs may be somewhat flatter than the Rafelski et al. 2012 estimate.
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