Time-variable complex metal absorption lines in the quasar HS 1603+3820

Toru Misawa, Michael Eracleous, Jane C. Charlton, Akito Tajistu

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42 Scopus citations


We present a new spectrum of the quasar HS 1603+3820 taken 1.28 yr (0.36 yr in the quasar rest frame) after a previous observation with Subaru+HDS. The new spectrum enables us to search for time variability as an identifier of intrinsic narrow absorption lines (NALs). This quasar shows a rich complex of C IV NALs within 60,000 km s-1 of the emission redshift. On the basis of covering factor analysis, Misawa et al. found that the C IV NAL system at Zabs = 2.42-2.45 (system A, at a shift velocity of vsh = 8300-10,600 km s-1 relative to the quasar) was intrinsic to the quasar. With our new spectrum, we perform time variability analysis, as well as covering factor analysis, to separate intrinsic NALs from intervening NALs for eight C IV systems. Only system A, which was identified as an intrinsic system in the earlier paper by Misawa et al., shows a strong variation in line strength (Wobs ≈ 10.4 →19.1̊). We speculate that a broad absorption line (BAL) could be forming in this quasar (i.e., many narrower lines will blend together to make a BAL profile). We illustrate the plausibility of this suggestion with the help of a simulation in which we vary the column densities and covering factors of the NAL complex. Under the assumption that a change of ionization state causes the variability, a lower limit can be placed on the electron density (ne ≳ 3 × 104 cm-3) and an upper limit on the distance from the continuum source (r ≤ 6 kpc). On the other hand, if the motion of clumpy gas causes the variability (a more likely scenario), the crossing velocity and the distance from the continuum source are estimated to be vcross > 8000 km s-1 and r < 3 pc. In this case, the absorber does not intercept any flux from the broad emission line region, but only flux from the UV continuum source. If we adopt the dynamical model of Murray et al., we can obtain a much more strict constraint on the distance of the gas parcel from the continuum source, r < 0.2 pc.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)115-130
Number of pages16
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1 I
StatePublished - Aug 10 2005

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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