3 years ago

Spotting high-z molecular absorbers using neutral carbon: Results from a complete spectroscopic survey with the VLT.

S. López, P. Petitjean, P. Noterdaeme, S. Zou, C. Ledoux, R. Srianand

While molecular quasar absorption systems provide unique probes of the physical and chemical properties of the gas as well as original constraints on fundamental physics and cosmology, their detection remains challenging. Here we present the results from a complete survey for molecular gas in thirty-nine absorption systems selected solely upon the detection of neutral carbon lines in SDSS spectra, without any prior knowledge of the atomic or molecular gas content. H2 is found in all twelve systems (including seven new detections) where the corresponding lines are covered by the instrument setups and measured to have log N(H2)>=18, indicating a self-shielded regime. We also report seven CO detections (7/39) down to log N(CO)~13.5, including a new one, and put stringent constraints on N(CO) for the remaining 32 systems. N(CO) and N(CI) are found to be strongly correlated with N(CO)/N(CI)~1/10. This suggests that the CI-selected absorber population is probing gas deeper than the HI-H2 transition in which a substantial fraction of the total hydrogen in the cloud is in the form of H2. We conclude that targeting CI-bearing absorbers is a very efficient way to find high-metallicity molecular absorbers. However, probing the molecular content in lower metallicity regimes as well as high column density neutral gas remains to be undertaken to unravel the processes of gas conversion in normal high-z galaxies

Publisher URL: http://arxiv.org/abs/1801.08357

DOI: arXiv:1801.08357v1

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