Volume 494, Number 2, February I 2009
|Page(s)||L25 - L28|
|Published online||14 January 2009|
Letter to the Editor
The metallicity of the most distant quasars*
Instituto Nacional de Astrofísica, Óptica y Electrónica, Puebla, Luis Enrique Erro 1, Tonantzintla, Puebla 72840, Mexico
2 INAF – Osservatorio Astronomico di Roma, via di Frascati 33, 00040 Monte Porzio Catone, Italy e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
3 Large Binocular Telescope Observatory, University of Arizona, 933 N. Cherry Ave., Tucson, AZ 85721-0065, USA
4 INAF – Telescopio Nazionale Galileo, PO Box 565, 38700 Santa Cruz de La Palma, Tenerife, Spain
5 Research Center for Space and Cosmic Evolution, Ehime University, 2-5 Bunkyo-cho, Matsuyama 790-8577, Japan
6 Dipartimento di Astronomia, Università di Firenze, Largo E. Fermi 2, 50125 Firenze, Italy
7 Osservatorio Astrofisico di Arcetri, Largo E. Fermi 5, 50125 Firenze, Italy
Accepted: 29 December 2008
We investigate the metallicity of the broad line region (BLR) of a sample of 30 quasars in the redshift range 4 < z < 6.4, by using near-IR and optical spectra. We focus on the ratio of the broad lines (SiIV1397+OIV] 1402)/CIV1549, which is a good metallicity tracer of the BLR. We find that the metallicity of the BLR is very high even in QSOs at z ~ 6. The inferred metallicity of the BLR gas is so high (several times solar) that metal ejection or mixing with lower metallicity gas in the host galaxy is required to match the metallicities observed in local massive galaxies. On average, the observed metallicity changes neither among quasars in the observed redshift range 4 < z <6.4, nor when compared with quasars at lower redshifts. We show that the apparent lack of metallicity evolution is a likely consequence of both the black hole-galaxy co-evolution and of selection effects. The data also suggest a lack of evolution in the carbon abundance, even among z > 6 quasars. The latter result is puzzling, since the minimum enrichment timescale of carbon is about 1 Gyr, i.e. longer than the age of the universe at z ~ 6.
Key words: ISM: abundances / galaxies: abundances / galaxies: evolution / galaxies: high-redshift / galaxies: quasars: emission lines
© ESO, 2009
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