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Title: The cosmic ultraviolet baryon survey (CUBS) – III. Physical properties and elemental abundances of Lyman-limit systems at z < 1
ABSTRACT We present a systematic investigation of physical conditions and elemental abundances in four optically thick Lyman-limit systems (LLSs) at z = 0.36–0.6 discovered within the cosmic ultraviolet baryon survey (CUBS). Because intervening LLSs at z < 1 suppress far-UV (ultraviolet) light from background QSOs, an unbiased search of these absorbers requires a near-UV-selected QSO sample, as achieved by CUBS. CUBS LLSs exhibit multicomponent kinematic structure and a complex mix of multiphase gas, with associated metal transitions from multiple ionization states such as C ii, C iii, N iii, Mg ii, Si ii, Si iii, O ii, O iii, O vi, and Fe ii absorption that span several hundred km s−1 in line-of-sight velocity. Specifically, higher column density components (log N(H i)/cm−2≳ 16) in all four absorbers comprise dynamically cool gas with $\langle T \rangle =(2\pm 1) \times 10^4\,$K and modest non-thermal broadening of $\langle b_\mathrm{nt} \rangle =5\pm 3\,$km s−1. The high quality of the QSO absorption spectra allows us to infer the physical conditions of the gas, using a detailed ionization modelling that takes into account the resolved component structures of H i and metal transitions. The range of inferred gas densities indicates that these absorbers consist of spatially compact clouds with a median line-of-sight thickness of $160^{+140}_{-50}$ pc. While obtaining robust metallicity more » constraints for the low density, highly ionized phase remains challenging due to the uncertain $N\mathrm{(H\, {\small I})}$, we demonstrate that the cool-phase gas in LLSs has a median metallicity of $\mathrm{[\alpha /H]_{1/2}}=-0.7^{+0.1}_{-0.2}$, with a 16–84 percentile range of [α/H] = (−1.3, −0.1). Furthermore, the wide range of inferred elemental abundance ratios ([C/α], [N/α], and [Fe/α]) indicate a diversity of chemical enrichment histories. Combining the absorption data with deep galaxy survey data characterizing the galaxy environment of these absorbers, we discuss the physical connection between star-forming regions in galaxies and diffuse gas associated with optically thick absorption systems in the z < 1 circumgalactic medium. « less
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Award ID(s):
1652522 1715692
Publication Date:
Journal Name:
Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Page Range or eLocation-ID:
877 to 902
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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