We present a study of the evolution of several classes of Mgii absorbers, and their corresponding Feii absorption, over a large fraction of cosmic history: 2.3-8.7Gyr from the big bang. Our sample consists of 87 strong (Wr(Mg ii)>0.3Å) Mgii absorbers, with redshifts 0.2 < z < 2.5, measured in 81 quasar spectra obtained from the Very Large Telescope/Ultraviolet and Visual Echelle Spectrograph archives of high-resolution spectra (R ∼ 45000). No evolutionary trend in Wr(Fe ii)/Wr(Mg ii) is found for moderately strong Mgii absorbers (0.3<Wr(Mg ii)<1.0Å). However, at lower redshifts we find an absence of very strong Mgii absorbers (those with Wr(Mg ii)>1Å) with small ratios of equivalent widths of Feii to Mgii. At high redshifts, very strong Mgii absorbers with both small and large Wr(Fe ii)/Wr(Mg ii) values are present. We compare our findings to a sample of 100 weak Mgii absorbers (Wr(Mg ii)<0.3Å) found in the same quasar spectra by Narayanan et al. The main effect driving the evolution of very strong Mgii systems is the difference between the kinematic profiles at low and high redshift. At high redshift, we observe that, among the very strong Mgii absorbers, all of the systems with small ratios of Wr(Fe ii)/Wr(Mg ii) have relatively large velocity spreads, resulting in less saturated profiles. At low redshift, such kinematically spread systems are absent, and both Feii and Mgii are saturated, leading to Wr(Fe ii)/Wr(Mg ii) values that are all close to 1. The high redshift, small Wr(Fe ii)/Wr(Mg ii) systems could correspond to sub-damped Lyman α systems, many of which have large velocity spreads and are possibly linked to superwinds in star-forming galaxies. In addition to the change in saturation due to kinematic evolution, the smaller Wr(Fe ii)/Wr(Mg ii) values could be due to a lower abundance of Fe at high redshifts, which would indicate relatively early stages of star formation in those environments. Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Astronomy and Astrophysics
- Space and Planetary Science