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Metal enrichment in the circumgalactic medium and Lya haloes around quasars at z ∼ 3

Yucheng Guo (The Kavli Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics, Peking University)

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Dec 15, 2020
from 03:30 PM to 03:45 PM

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Deep observations have detected extended Lya emission nebulae surrounding tens of quasars at redshift 2 to 6. However, the metallicity of such extended haloes is still poorly understood. We perform a detailed analysis on a large sample of 80 quasars at z ∼ 3 based on MUSE-VLT data. We find clear evidence of extended emission of the UV nebular lines such as C IV λ1549 or He II λ1640 for about 20% of the sample, while C III] λ1909 is only marginally detected in a few objects. By stacking the cubes we detect emission of C IV, He II and C III] out to a radius of about 45 kpc. C IV and He II show a radial decline much steeper than Lyα, while C III] shows a shallower profile similar to Lyα in the inner 45 kpc. We infer that the average metallicity of the circumgalactic gas within the central 30–50 kpc is ∼0.5 solar, or even higher. However, we also find evidence of a component of the Lya haloes, which has much weaker metal emission lines relative to Lya. We suggest that the high metallicity of the circumgalactic medium within the central 30–50 kpc is associated with chemical pre-enrichment by past quasar-driven outflows and that there is a more extended component of the CGM that has much lower metallicity and likely associated with near-pristine gas accreted from the intergalactic medium. We show that our observational results are in good agreement with the expectations of the FABLE zoom-in cosmological simulations.