Unusual quasars from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey selected by means of Kohonen self-organising maps⋆
H. Meusinger1, P. Schalldach1, R.-D. Scholz2, A. in der Au1, M. Newholm1, A. de Hoon2 and B. Kaminsky3
1 Thüringer Landessternwarte Tautenburg, Sternwarte 5, 07778 Tautenburg, Germany
2 Leibniz-Institut für Astrophysik Potsdam (AIP), An der Sternwarte 16, 14482 Potsdam, Germany
3 Universität Leipzig, Fakultät für Physik und Geowissenschaften, Linnéstr. 5, 04103 Leipzig, Germany
Received: 23 September 2011
Accepted: 3 February 2012
Context. Large spectroscopic surveys have discovered very peculiar and hitherto unknown types of active galactic nuclei (AGN). Such rare objects may hold clues to the accretion history of the supermassive black holes at the centres of galaxies.
Aims. We aim to create a sizeable sample of unusual quasars from the unprecedented spectroscopic database of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS).
Methods. We exploit the spectral archive of the SDSS Data Release 7 to select unusual quasar spectra. The selection method is based on a combination of the power of self-organising maps and the visual inspection of a huge number of spectra. Self-organising maps were applied to nearly 105 spectra classified as quasars at redshifts from z = 0.6 to 4.3 by the SDSS pipeline. Particular attention was paid to minimise possible contamination by rare peculiar stellar spectral types. All selected quasar spectra were individually studied to determine the object type and the redshift.
Results. We present a catalogue of 1005 quasars with unusual spectra. These spectra are dominated by either broad absorption lines (BALs; 42%), unusual red continua (27%), weak emission lines (18%), or conspicuously strong optical and/or UV iron emission (11%). This large sample provides a useful resource for both studying properties and relations of/between different types of unusual quasars and selecting particularly interesting objects, even though the compilation is not aimed at completeness in a quantifiable sense. The spectra are grouped into six types for which composite spectra are constructed and mean properties are computed. Remarkably, all these types turn out to be on average more luminous than comparison samples of normal quasars after a statistical correction is made for intrinsic reddening (E(B − V) ≈ 0 to 0.4 for SMC-like extinction). Both the unusual BAL quasars and the strong iron emitters have significantly lower radio luminosities than normal quasars. We also confirm that strong BALs avoid the most radio-luminous quasars. For 32 particularly interesting objects, individual spectra are presented. Among these objects are quasars with many narrow BAL troughs and one quasar where the continuum is strongly suppressed by overlapping BAL troughs across nearly the whole SDSS spectrum. Finally, we create a sample of quasars similar to the two “mysterious” objects discovered by Hall et al. (2002, ApJS, 141, 267) and briefly discuss the quasar properties and possible explanations of their highly peculiar spectra.
Key words: galaxies: active / quasars: general / quasars: absorption lines / quasars: emission lines / black hole physics
The full catalogue (Table 3) is only available at the CDS via anonymous ftp to cdsarc.u-strasbg.fr (22.214.171.124) or via http://cdsarc.u-strasbg.fr/viz-bin/qcat?J/A+A/541/A77
© ESO, 2012