EDP Sciences
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Volume 468, Number 3, June IV 2007
Page(s) 979 - 992
Section Extragalactic astronomy
DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.1051/0004-6361:20077252

A&A 468, 979-992 (2007)
DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361:20077252

Dust covering factor, silicate emission, and star formation in luminous QSOs

R. Maiolino1, O. Shemmer2, M. Imanishi3, H. Netzer4, E. Oliva5, D. Lutz6, and E. Sturm6

1  INAF - Osservatorio Astronomico di Roma, via di Frascati 33, 00040 Monte Porzio Catone, Italy
    e-mail: maiolino@oa-roma.inaf.it
2  Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics, 525 Davey Laboratory, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16802, USA
3  National Astronomical Observatory, 2-21-1, Osawa, Mitaka, Tokyo 181-8588, Japan
4  School of Physics and Astronomy and the Wise Observatory , Tel-Aviv University, Tel-Aviv 69978, Israel
5  INAF - Telescopio Nazionale Galileo, PO Box 565, 38700 Santa Cruz de La Palma, Tenerife, Spain
6  Max-Planck-Institut für Extraterrestrische Physik, 85741 Garching, Germany

(Received 7 February 2007 / Accepted 5 April 2007)

We present Spitzer IRS low resolution, mid-IR spectra of a sample of 25 high luminosity QSOs at 2<z<3.5. When combined with archival IRS observations of local, low luminosity type-I active galactic nuclei (AGNs), the sample spans five orders of magnitude in luminosity. We find that the continuum dust thermal emission at $\rm\lambda _{rest}=6.7~\mu m$ is correlated with the optical luminosity, following the non-linear relation $\lambda L_{\lambda}(6.7~\mu{\rm m}) \propto \lambda
L_{\lambda}(5100~\AA)^{0.82}$. We also find an anti correlation between $\lambda
L_{\lambda}(6.7~\mu{\rm m})/\lambda L_{\lambda}(5100~\AA)$ and the [OIII]$\lambda$5007 line luminosity. These effects are interpreted as a decreasing covering factor of the circumnuclear dust as a function of luminosity. Such a result is in agreement with the decreasing fraction of absorbed AGNs as a function of luminosity recently found in various surveys. In particular, while X-ray surveys find a decreasing covering factor of the absorbing gas as a function of luminosity, our data provides an independent and complementary confirmation by finding a decreasing covering factor of dust. We clearly detect the silicate emission feature in the average spectrum, but also in four individual objects. These are the silicate emission in the most luminous objects obtained so far. When combined with the silicate emission observed in local, low luminosity type-I AGNs, we find that the silicate emission strength is correlated with luminosity. The silicate strength of all type-I AGNs also follows a positive correlation with the black hole mass and with the accretion rate. The Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbon (PAH) emission features, expected from starburst activity, are not detected in the average spectrum of luminous, high-z QSOs. The upper limit inferred from the average spectrum points to a ratio between PAH luminosity and QSO optical luminosity significantly lower than observed in lower luminosity AGNs, implying that the correlation between star formation rate and AGN power saturates at high luminosities.

Key words: infrared: galaxies -- galaxies: nuclei -- galaxies: active -- galaxies: Seyfert -- galaxies: starburst -- quasars: general

© ESO 2007

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