Correlations of quasar optical spectra with radio morphology

Amy E. Kimball, Željko Ivezić, Paul J. Wiita, Donald P. Schneider

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


Using the largest homogeneous quasar sample with high-quality optical spectra and robust radio morphology classifications assembled to date, we investigate relationships between radio and optical properties with unprecedented statistical power. The sample consists of 4714 radio quasars from FIRST with S 20 ≥ 2 mJy and with spectra from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS). Radio morphology classes include core-only (core), core-lobe (lobe), core-jet (jet), lobe-core-lobe (triple), and double-lobe. Electronic tables of the quasar samples, along with spectral composites for individual morphology classes, are made available. We examine the optical colors of these subsamples and find that radio quasars with core emission unresolved by FIRST (on 5″ scale) have a redder color distribution than radio-quiet quasars (S 20 ≲ 1 mJy); other classes of radio quasars have optical color distributions similar to the radio-quiet quasars. This analysis also suggests that optical colors of z ≲ 2.7 SDSS quasars are not strongly (<0.1mag) biased blue. We show that the radio core-to-lobe flux density ratio (R) and the radio-to-optical (i-band) ratio of the quasar core (R I) are correlated, which supports the hypothesis that both parameters are indicative of line-of-sight orientation. We investigate spectral line equivalent widths (EWs) as a function of R and R I, including the O [III] narrow line doublet and the C IV λ1549 and Mg II λ2799 broad lines. We find that the rest EWs of the broad lines correlate positively with R I at the 4σ-8σ level. However, we find no strong dependence of EW on R, in contrast to previously published results. A possible interpretation of these results is that EWs of quasar emission lines increase as the line-of-sight angle to the radio-jet axis decreases. These results are in stark contrast to commonly accepted orientation-based theories, which suggest that continuum emission should increase as the angle to the radio-jet axis decreases, resulting in smaller EWs of emission lines (assumed isotropic). Finally, we observe the Baldwin effect in our sample and find that it does not depend strongly on quasar radio morphology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number182
JournalAstronomical Journal
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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