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Broad Ly alpha Emission from Three Nearby BL Lacertae Objects

By John T. Stocke, Charles W. Danforth and Eric S. Perlman


We present far-UV HST/COS spectra of four nearby BL Lac Objects. BL Lac spectra are dominated by a smooth, power-law continuum which arises in a relativistic jet. However, the spectra are not necessarily featureless; weak, broad- and/or narrow-line emission is sometimes seen in high-quality optical spectra. We present detections of Lya emission in HST/COS spectra of Mrk421 (z=0.030) and PKS2005-489 (z=0.071) as well as an archival HST/GHRS observation of Mrk501 (z=0.0337). Archival HST/STIS observations of PKS2155-304 (z=0.116) show no Lya emission to a very low upper limit. Using the assumption that the broad-line region (BLR) clouds are asymmetrically placed around the AGN, we use these measured Lya emission features to constrain either the relativistic Gamma values for the ionizing continuum produced by the jet (in the ionization-bounded case) or the mass of warm gas (in the density-bounded case). While realistic Gamma values can be obtained for all four cases, the values for Mrk421 and PKS2155-304 are high enough to suggest that covering factors of broad-line-region clouds of ~1-2% might be required to provide consistency with earlier values of Doppler boosting and viewing angles suggested for this class of BL Lacs. This discrepancy also exists in the case of M87, where the amount of Doppler boosting in our direction is expected to be minimal, again suggestive of a small covering factor of broad-line-region clouds. If, as these small covering factors might suggest, the assumptions of a density-bounded model could be more correct, then the observed Lya luminosities require that BL\,Lac/FRI nuclei possess very little warm gas (10^-4 to 10^-5 Msun) as suggested by Guilbert, Fabian & McCray (1983). If these clouds are in pressure balance with a hotter (~10^6 K) gas, the BLR contains too little mass to power the AGN by accretion alone.Comment: 9 pages, two figures, submitted to Ap

Topics: Astrophysics - Cosmology and Nongalactic Astrophysics
Year: 2011
DOI identifier: 10.1088/0004-637X/732/2/113
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