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Durham University

Department of Physics

Staff profile

Publication details for Prof David Alexander

Geach, J.E., Alexander, D.M., Lehmer, B.D., Smail, I., Matsuda, Y., Chapman, S.C., Scharf, C.A., Ivison, R.J., Volonteri, M., Yamada, T., Blain, A.W., Bower, R.G., Bauer, F.E. & Basu-Zych, A. (2009). The Chandra Deep protocluster survey Lyα blobs are powered by heating, not cooling. The astrophysical journal 700(1): 1-9.

Author(s) from Durham


We present the results of a 400 ks Chandra survey of 29 extended Lyα emitting nebulae (Lyα Blobs, LABs) in the z = 3.09 protocluster in the SS A22 field. We detect luminous X-ray counterparts in five LABs, implying a large fraction of active galactic nuclei (AGN) in LABs, f AGN = 17+12 -7% down to L 2-32 keV ~ 1044 erg s-1. All of the AGN appear to be heavily obscured, with spectral indices implying obscuring column densities of N H > 1023 cm-2. The AGN fraction should be considered a lower limit, since several more LABs not detected with Chandra show AGN signatures in their mid-infrared (mid-IR) emission. We show that the UV luminosities of the AGN are easily capable of powering the extended Lyα emission via photoionization alone. When combined with the UV flux from a starburst component, and energy deposited by mechanical feedback, we demonstrate that "heating" by a central source, rather than gravitational cooling is the most likely power source of LABs. We argue that all LABs could be powered in this manner, but that the luminous host galaxies are often just below the sensitivity limits of current instrumentation, or are heavily obscured. No individual LABs show evidence for extended X-ray emission, and a stack equivalent to a gsim9 Ms exposure of an average LAB also yields no statistical detection of a diffuse X-ray component. The resulting diffuse X-ray/Lyα luminosity limit implies there is no hot (T gsim 107 K) gas component in these halos, and also rules out inverse Compton scattering of cosmic microwave background photons, or local far-IR photons, as a viable power source for LABs.