Discovery of the transition of a mini-broad absorption line into a broad absorption line in the SDSS quasar J115122.14+020426.3

Paola Rodríguez Hidalgo, Michael Eracleous, Jane Charlton, Fred Hamann, Michael T. Murphy, Daniel Nestor

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Abstract

We present the detection of a rare case of dramatic strengthening in the UV absorption profiles in the spectrum of the quasar J115122.14+020426.3 between observations ∼2.86 yr apart in the quasar rest frame. A spectrum obtained in 2001 by the Sloan Digital Sky Survey shows a C IV "mini-broad" absorption line (FWHM = 1220 km s-1) with a maximum blueshift velocity of ∼9520 km s-1, while a later spectrum from the Very Large Telescope shows a significantly broader and stronger absorption line, with a maximum blueshift velocity of ∼12, 240 km s-1 that qualifies as a broad absorption line. A similar variability pattern is observed in two additional systems at lower blueshifted velocities and in the Lyα and N V transitions as well. One of the absorption systems appears to be resolved and shows evidence for partial covering of the quasar continuum source (Cf ∼ 0.65), indicating a transverse absorber size of, at least, ∼6 × 1016 cm. In contrast, a cluster of narrower C IV lines appears to originate in gas that fully covers the continuum and broad emission line sources. There is no evidence for changes in the centroid velocity of the absorption troughs. This case suggests that at least some of the absorbers that produce "mini-broad" and broad absorption lines in quasar spectra do not belong to intrinsically separate classes. Here, the "mini-broad" absorption line is most likely interpreted as an intermediate phase before the appearance of a broad absorption line due to their similar velocities. While the current observations do not provide enough constraints to discern among the possible causes for this variability, future monitoring of multiple transitions at high resolution will help achieve this goal.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number15
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Volume775
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 20 2013

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All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science

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