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Durham University

Department of Physics

Staff profile

Publication details for Prof David Alexander

Violino, G., Coppin, K.E.K., Stevens, J.A., Farrah, D., Geach, J.E., Alexander, D.M., Hickox, R., Smith, D.J.B. & Wardlow, J.L. (2016). A SCUBA-2 survey of FeLoBAL QSOs. Are FeLoBALs in a ‘transition phase’ between ULIRGs and QSOs? Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 457(2): 1371-1384.

Author(s) from Durham


It is thought that a class of broad absorption line (BAL) QSOs, characterized by Fe absorption features in their UV spectra (called ‘FeLoBALs’), could mark a transition stage between the end of an obscured starburst event and a youthful QSO beginning to shed its dust cocoon, where Fe has been injected into the interstellar medium by the starburst. To test this hypothesis, we have undertaken deep Submillimetre Common-User Bolometer Array 2 (SCUBA-2) 850 μm observations of a sample of 17 FeLoBAL QSOs with 0.89 ≤ z ≤ 2.78 and −23.31 ≤ MB ≤ −28.50 to directly detect an excess in the thermal emission of the dust which would probe enhanced star formation activity. We find that FeLoBALs are not luminous sources in the sub-mm, none of them are individually detected at 850 μm, nor as a population through stacking (Fs = 1.14 ± 0.58 mJy). Statistical and survival analyses reveal that FeLoBALs have sub-mm properties consistent with BAL and non-BAL QSOs with matched redshifts and magnitudes. An Spectral Energy Distribution fitting analysis shows that the far-infrared emission is dominated by active galactic nuclei activity, and a starburst component is required only in 6/17 sources of our sample; moreover the integrated total luminosity of 16/17 sources is L ≥ 1012 L⊙, high enough to classify FeLoBALs as infrared luminous. In conclusion, we do not find any evidence in support of FeLoBAL QSOs being a transition population between an ultraluminous infrared galaxy (ULIRG) and an unobscured QSO; in particular, FeLoBALs are not characterized by a cold starburst which would support this hypothesis.