Average extinction curves and relative abundances for quasi-stellar object absorption-line systems at 1 ≤ zabs < 2

Donald G. York, Pushpa Khare, Daniel Vanden Berk, Varsha P. Kulkarni, Arlin P.S. Crotts, James T. Lauroesch, Gordon T. Richards, Donald P. Schneider, Daniel E. Welty, Yusra Alsayyad, Abhishek Kumar, Britt Lundgren, Natela Shanidze, Tristan Smith, Johnny Vanlandingham, Britt Baugher, Patrick B. Hall, Edward B. Jenkins, Brice Menard, Sandhya RaoJason Tumlinson, David Turnshek, Ching Wa Yip, Jon Brinkmann

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177 Scopus citations


We have studied a sample of 809 Mg II absorption systems with 1.0 ≤ zabs ≤ 1.86 in the spectra of Sloan Digital Sky Survey quasi-stellar objects (QSOs), with the aim of understanding the nature and abundance of the dust and the chemical abundances in the intervening absorbers. Normalized, composite spectra were derived, for abundance measurements, for the full sample and several subsamples, chosen on the basis of the line strengths and other absorber and QSO properties. Average extinction curves were obtained for the subsamples by comparing their geometric mean spectra with those of matching samples of QSOs without absorbers in their spectra. There is clear evidence for the presence of dust in the intervening absorbers. The 2175-Å feature is not present in the extinction curves, for any of the subsamples. The extinction curves are similar to the Small Magellanic Cloud (SMC) extinction curve with a rising ultraviolet (UV) extinction below 2200 Å. The absorber rest-frame colour excess, E(B - V), derived from the extinction curves, depends on the absorber properties and ranges from <0.001 to 0.085 for various subsamples. The column densities of Mg II, Al II, Si II, Ca II, Ti II, Cr II, Mn II, Fe II, Co II, Ni II and Zn II do not show such a correspondingly large variation. The overall depletions in the high E(B - V) samples are consistent with those found for individual damped Lyman α systems, the depletion pattern being similar to halo clouds in the Galaxy. Assuming an SMC gas-to-dust ratio, we find a trend of increasing abundance with decreasing extinction; systems with NHI ∼ 1020 cm-2 show solar abundance of Zn. The large velocity spread of strong Mg II systems seems to be mimicked by weak lines of other elements. The ionization of the absorbers, in general appears to be low: the ratio of the column densities of Al III to Al II is always less than 1/2. QSOs with absorbers are, in general, at least three times as likely to have highly reddened spectra as compared to QSOs without any absorption systems in their spectra.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)945-978
Number of pages34
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number3
StatePublished - Apr 2006

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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