Evidence for dust reddening in damped Ly alpha absorbers identified through Ca II (H

Vivienne Wild, Paul C. Hewett

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51 Citations (Scopus)


We present a new sample of 31 Ca II (H&K)&LAMBDA;lambda 3935, 3970 absorption-line systems with 0.84 < z(abs) < 1.3 discovered in the spectra of Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) Data Release 3 quasars, together with an analysis of their dust content. The presence of calcium absorption together with measurements of the Mg II lambda 2796, Fe II lambda 2600 and Mg I lambda 2853 lines leads to the conclusion that the majority of our systems are damped Ly alpha (DLA) absorbers. The composite spectrum in the rest frame of the absorber shows clear evidence for reddening. Large and Small Magellanic Cloud extinction curves provide satisfactory fits, with a best-fitting E(B - V) of 0.06, while the Galactic dust extinction curve provides a poor fit due to the lack of a strong 2175-angstrom feature. A trend of increasing dust content with equivalent width of Ca II is present. Monte Carlo techniques demonstrate that the detection of reddening is significant at > 99.99 per cent confidence. The discovery of significant amounts of dust in a subsample of DLAs has direct implications for studies of the metallicity evolution of the Universe and the nature of DLAs in relation to high-redshift galaxies. The gas: dust ratio is discussed. Our results suggest that at least similar to 40 per cent of the Ca II absorption systems are excluded from the magnitude-limited SDSS quasar sample as a result of the associated extinction, a fraction similar to the upper limit deduced at higher redshifts from radio-selected surveys.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)L30-L34
Number of pages5
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2005


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