Volume 464, Number 2, March III 2007
|Page(s)||487 - 493|
|Section||Cosmology (including clusters of galaxies)|
|Published online||11 January 2007|
The nature of damped Lyman and sub-damped Lyman absorbers
Department of Physics, Utkal University, Bhubaneswar 751004, India e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
2 Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC 29208, USA
3 European Southern Observatory, Garching-bei-München, Germany
4 Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL 60637, USA
5 Enrico Fermi Institute, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL 60637, USA
6 Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Louisville, Louisville, KY 40292, USA
Accepted: 26 December 2006
We present arguments based on the measured abundances in individual damped Lyman α systems (DLAs) and sub-damped Lyman α systems (sub-DLAs), and also the average abundances inferred in large samples of QSO absorption line systems, to suggest that the amount of dust in intervening QSO absorbers is small and is not responsible for missing many QSOs in magnitude limited QSO surveys. While we can not totally rule out a bimodal dust distribution with a population of very dusty, metal rich, absorbers which push the background QSOs below the observational threshold of current optical spectroscopic studies, based upon the current samples it appears that the metallicity in QSO absorbers decreases with increase in H I column densities beyond 1019 cm-2. Thus the sub-DLA population is more metal rich than the DLAs, a trend which may possibly extend to the non-damped Lyman limit systems (NDLLS). Based on the recently discovered mass-metallicity relation for galaxies, we suggest that most sub-DLAs and possibly NDLLS, are associated with massive spiral/elliptical galaxies while most DLAs are associated with low mass galaxies. The sub-DLA galaxies will then contribute a larger fraction of total mass (stellar and ISM) and therefore metals, to the cosmic budget, specially at low redshifts, as compared to the DLAs.
Key words: quasars: absorption lines / galaxies: ISM / galaxies: abundances
© ESO, 2007
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