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Durham University

Department of Physics

Staff profile

Publication details for Prof David Alexander

Luo, B., Brandt, W.N., Alexander, D.M., Stern, D., Teng, S.H., Arévalo, P., Bauer, F.E., Boggs, S.E., Christensen, F.E., Comastri, A., Craig, W.W., Farrah, D., Gandhi, P., Hailey, C.J., Harrison, F.A., Koss, M., Ogle, P., Puccetti, S., Saez, C., Scott, A.E., Walton, D.J. & Zhang, W.W. (2014). Weak Hard X-Ray Emission from Broad Absorption Line Quasars: Evidence for Intrinsic X-Ray Weakness. The Astrophysical Journal 794(1): 70.

Author(s) from Durham


We report NuSTAR observations of a sample of six X-ray weak broad absorption line (BAL) quasars. These targets, at z = 0.148-1.223, are among the optically brightest and most luminous BAL quasars known at z < 1.3. However, their rest-frame ≈2 keV luminosities are 14 to >330 times weaker than expected for typical quasars. Our results from a pilot NuSTAR study of two low-redshift BAL quasars, a Chandra stacking analysis of a sample of high-redshift BAL quasars, and a NuSTAR spectral analysis of the local BAL quasar Mrk 231 have already suggested the existence of intrinsically X-ray weak BAL quasars, i.e., quasars not emitting X-rays at the level expected from their optical/UV emission. The aim of the current program is to extend the search for such extraordinary objects. Three of the six new targets are weakly detected by NuSTAR with lsim 45 counts in the 3-24 keV band, and the other three are not detected. The hard X-ray (8-24 keV) weakness observed by NuSTAR requires Compton-thick absorption if these objects have nominal underlying X-ray emission. However, a soft stacked effective photon index (Γeff ≈ 1.8) for this sample disfavors Compton-thick absorption in general. The uniform hard X-ray weakness observed by NuSTAR for this and the pilot samples selected with <10 keV weakness also suggests that the X-ray weakness is intrinsic in at least some of the targets. We conclude that the NuSTAR observations have likely discovered a significant population (gsim 33%) of intrinsically X-ray weak objects among the BAL quasars with significantly weak <10 keV emission. We suggest that intrinsically X-ray weak quasars might be preferentially observed as BAL quasars.