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Spectral Signature of Cosmological Infall Around the First Quasars

By Rennan Barkana and Abraham Loeb


The massive galaxies hosting the earliest supermassive black holes only a billion years after the big bang are expected to be surrounded by a large volume of infalling gas. This infall is halted at the boundary of the host galactic halo by a shock. Here we show that this generic infall pattern imprints a unique signature on the Lyα emission-line profile of bright high-redshift quasars. Absorption by the infalling hydrogen modifies the intrinsic singly-peaked emission line shape into a doubly-peaked profile. Recent spectra of quasars with redshifts ∼> 5 show apparent evidence for this predicted shape. This evidence confirms for the first time the idea that the earliest known quasars reside in massive ( ∼> 1012 solar mass) host halos. The inferred mass infall rates are consistent with the expected build-up of the quasar host galaxies over the age of the universe at that early epoch. The Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) has recently discovered exceptionally bright quasars1 with redshifts of up to 6.28. Even if these accreting black holes shine near their maximum (Eddington) luminosity, their observed fluxes can only be produced by billio

Year: 2002
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