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  1. Abstract

    Protoclusters, the progenitors of galaxy clusters, trace large scale structures in the early Universe and are important to our understanding of structure formation and galaxy evolution. To date, only a handful of protoclusters have been identified in the Epoch of Reionization. As one of the rarest populations in the early Universe, distant quasars that host active supermassive black holes are thought to reside in the most massive dark matter halos at that cosmic epoch and could thus potentially pinpoint some of the earliest protoclusters. In this Letter, we report the discovery of a massive protocluster around a luminous quasar atz= 6.63. This protocluster is anchored by the quasar and includes three [Cii] emitters atz∼ 6.63, 12 spectroscopically confirmed Lyαemitters (LAEs) at 6.54 <z≤ 6.64, and a large number of narrow-band-imaging selected LAE candidates at the same redshift. This structure has an overall overdensity ofδ=3.30.9+1.1within ∼35 × 74 cMpc2on the sky and an extreme overdensity ofδ> 30 in its central region (i.e.,R≲ 2 cMpc). We estimate that this protocluster will collapse into a galaxy cluster with a mass of6.91.4+1.2×1015Mat the current epoch, more massive than the most massive clusters known in the local Universe such as Coma. In the quasar vicinity, we discover a double-peaked LAE, which implies that the quasar has a UV lifetime greater than 0.8 Myrs and has already ionized its surrounding intergalactic medium.

     
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  2. Abstract Luminous quasars are powerful targets to investigate the role of feedback from supermassive black holes (BHs) in regulating the growth phases of BHs themselves and of their host galaxies, up to the highest redshifts. Here we investigate the cosmic evolution of the occurrence and kinematics of BH-driven outflows, as traced by broad absorption line (BAL) features, due to the C iv ionic transition. We exploit a sample of 1935 quasars at z = 2.1–6.6 with bolometric luminosity log( L bol /erg s −1 ) ≳ 46.5, drawn from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey and from the X-Shooter legacy survey of Quasars at the Reionization Epoch (XQR-30). We consider rest-frame optical bright quasars to minimize observational biases due to quasar selection criteria. We apply a homogeneous BAL-identification analysis, based on employing composite template spectra to estimate the quasar intrinsic emission. We find a BAL quasar fraction close to 20% at z ∼ 2–4, while it increases to almost 50% at z ∼ 6. The velocity and width of the BAL features also increase at z ≳ 4.5. We exclude the possibility that the redshift evolution of the BAL properties is due to differences in terms of quasar luminosity and accretion rate. These results suggest significant BH feedback occurring in the 1 Gyr old universe, likely affecting the growth of BHs and, possibly, of their host galaxies, as supported by models of early BH and galaxy evolution. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available July 1, 2024
  3. ABSTRACT

    Proximity zones of high-redshift quasars are unique probes of their central supermassive black holes as well as the intergalactic medium (IGM) in the last stages of reionization. We present 22 new measurements of proximity zones of quasars with redshifts between 5.8 and 6.6, using the enlarged XQR-30 sample of high-resolution, high-SNR quasar spectra. The quasars in our sample have ultraviolet magnitudes of M1450 ∼ −27 and black hole masses of 109–1010 M⊙. Our inferred proximity zone sizes are 2–7 physical Mpc, with a typical uncertainty of less than 0.5 physical Mpc, which, for the first time, also includes uncertainty in the quasar continuum. We find that the correlation between proximity zone sizes and the quasar redshift, luminosity, or black hole mass, indicates a large diversity of quasar lifetimes. Two of our proximity zone sizes are exceptionally small. The spectrum of one of these quasars, with z  = 6.02, displays, unusually for this redshift, damping wing absorption without any detectable metal lines, which could potentially originate from the IGM. The other quasar has a high-ionization absorber ∼0.5 pMpc from the edge of the proximity zone. This work increases the number of proximity zone measurements available in the last stages of cosmic reionization to 87. This data will lead to better constraints on quasar lifetimes and obscuration fractions at high redshift, that in turn will help probe the seed mass and formation redshift of supermassive black holes.

     
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  4. Abstract Measuring the density of the intergalactic medium using quasar sight lines in the epoch of reionization is challenging due to the saturation of Ly α absorption. Near a luminous quasar, however, the enhanced radiation creates a proximity zone observable in the quasar spectra where the Ly α absorption is not saturated. In this study, we use 10 high-resolution ( R ≳ 10,000) z ∼ 6 quasar spectra from the extended XQR-30 sample to measure the density field in the quasar proximity zones. We find a variety of environments within 3 pMpc distance from the quasars. We compare the observed density cumulative distribution function (CDF) with models from the Cosmic Reionization on Computers simulation and find a good agreement between 1.5 and 3 pMpc from the quasar. This region is far away from the quasar hosts and hence approaching the mean density of the universe, which allows us to use the CDF to set constraints on the cosmological parameter σ 8 = 0.6 ± 0.3. The uncertainty is mainly due to the limited number of high-quality quasar sight lines currently available. Utilizing the more than 200 known quasars at z ≳ 6, this method will allow us to tighten the constraint on σ 8 to the percent level in the future. In the region closer to the quasar within 1.5 pMpc, we find that the density is higher than predicted in the simulation by 1.23 ± 0.17, suggesting that the typical host dark matter halo mass of a bright quasar ( M 1450 < −26.5) at z ∼ 6 is log 10 ( M h / M ⊙ ) = 12.5 − 0.7 + 0.4 . 
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  5. Abstract Studies of rest-frame optical emission in quasars at z > 6 have historically been limited by the wavelengths accessible by ground-based telescopes. The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) now offers the opportunity to probe this emission deep into the reionization epoch. We report the observations of eight quasars at z > 6.5 using the JWST/NIRCam Wide Field Slitless Spectroscopy as a part of the “A SPectroscopic survey of biased halos In the Reionization Era (ASPIRE)” program. Our JWST spectra cover the quasars’ emission between rest frame ∼4100 and 5100 Å. The profiles of these quasars’ broad H β emission lines span a full width at half maximum from 3000 to 6000 km s −1 . The H β -based virial black hole (BH) masses, ranging from 0.6 to 2.1 billion solar masses, are generally consistent with their Mg ii -based BH masses. The new measurements based on the more reliable H β tracer thus confirm the existence of a billion solar-mass BHs in the reionization epoch. In the observed [O iii ] λ λ 4960,5008 doublets of these luminous quasars, broad components are more common than narrow core components (≤ 1200 km s −1 ), and only one quasar shows stronger narrow components than broad. Two quasars exhibit significantly broad and blueshifted [O iii ] emission, thought to trace galactic-scale outflows, with median velocities of −610 and −1430 km s −1 relative to the [C ii ] 158 μ m line. All eight quasars show strong optical Fe ii emission and follow the eigenvector 1 relations defined by low-redshift quasars. The entire ASPIRE program will eventually cover 25 quasars and provide a statistical sample for the studies of the BHs and quasar spectral properties. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available June 29, 2024
  6. Abstract We present the first results from the JWST program A SPectroscopic survey of biased halos In the Reionization Era (ASPIRE). This program represents an imaging and spectroscopic survey of 25 reionization-era quasars and their environments by utilizing the unprecedented capabilities of NIRCam Wide Field Slitless Spectroscopy (WFSS) mode. ASPIRE will deliver the largest ( ∼ 280 arcmin 2 ) galaxy redshift survey at 3–4 μ m among JWST Cycle 1 programs and provide extensive legacy values for studying the formation of the earliest supermassive black holes, the assembly of galaxies, early metal enrichment, and cosmic reionization. In this first ASPIRE paper, we report the discovery of a filamentary structure traced by the luminous quasar J0305–3150 and 10 [O iii ] emitters at z = 6.6. This structure has a 3D galaxy overdensity of δ gal = 12.6 over 637 cMpc 3 , one of the most overdense structures known in the early universe, and could eventually evolve into a massive galaxy cluster. Together with existing VLT/MUSE and ALMA observations of this field, our JWST observations reveal that J0305–3150 traces a complex environment where both UV-bright and dusty galaxies are present and indicate that the early evolution of galaxies around the quasar is not simultaneous. In addition, we discovered 31 [O iii ] emitters in this field at other redshifts, 5.3 < z < 6.7, with half of them situated at z ∼ 5.4 and 6.2. This indicates that star-forming galaxies, such as [O iii ] emitters, are generally clustered at high redshifts. These discoveries demonstrate the unparalleled redshift survey capabilities of NIRCam WFSS and the potential of the full ASPIRE survey data set. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available June 29, 2024
  7. We investigate the molecular gas content of z  ∼ 6 quasar host galaxies using the Institut de Radioastronomie Millimétrique Northern Extended Millimeter Array. We targeted the 3 mm dust continuum, and the line emission from CO(6–5), CO(7–6), and [C  I ] 2−1 in ten infrared–luminous quasars that have been previously studied in their 1 mm dust continuum and [C  II ] line emission. We detected CO(7–6) at various degrees of significance in all the targeted sources, thus doubling the number of such detections in z  ∼ 6 quasars. The 3 mm to 1 mm flux density ratios are consistent with a modified black body spectrum with a dust temperature T dust  ∼ 47 K and an optical depth τ ν  = 0.2 at the [C  II ] frequency. Our study provides us with four independent ways to estimate the molecular gas mass, M H2 , in the targeted quasars. This allows us to set constraints on various parameters used in the derivation of molecular gas mass estimates, such as the mass per luminosity ratios α CO and α [CII] , the gas-to-dust mass ratio δ g/d , and the carbon abundance [C]/H 2 . Leveraging either on the dust, CO, [C  I ], or [C  II ] emission yields mass estimates of the entire sample in the range M H2  ∼ 10 10 –10 11 M ⊙ . We compared the observed luminosities of dust, [C  II ], [C  I ], and CO(7–6) with predictions from photo-dissociation and X-ray dominated regions. We find that the former provide better model fits to our data, assuming that the bulk of the emission arises from dense ( n H  > 10 4 cm −3 ) clouds with a column density N H  ∼ 10 23 cm −2 , exposed to a radiation field with an intensity of G 0  ∼ 10 3 (in Habing units). Our analysis reiterates the presence of massive reservoirs of molecular gas fueling star formation and nuclear accretion in z  ∼ 6 quasar host galaxies. It also highlights the power of combined 3 mm and 1 mm observations for quantitative studies of the dense gas content in massive galaxies at cosmic dawn. 
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  10. ABSTRACT

    The elemental abundances in the broad-line regions of high-redshift quasars trace the chemical evolution in the nuclear regions of massive galaxies in the early Universe. In this work, we study metallicity-sensitive broad emission-line flux ratios in rest-frame UV spectra of 25 high-redshift (5.8 < z < 7.5) quasars observed with the VLT/X-shooter and Gemini/GNIRS instruments, ranging over $\log \left({{M}_{\rm {BH}}/\rm {M}_{\odot }}\right) = 8.4-9.8$ in black hole mass and $\log \left(\rm {L}_{\rm {bol}}/\rm {erg \, s}^{-1}\right) = 46.7-47.7$ in bolometric luminosity. We fit individual spectra and composites generated by binning across quasar properties: bolometric luminosity, black hole mass, and blueshift of the C iv line, finding no redshift evolution in the emission-line ratios by comparing our high-redshift quasars to lower redshift (2.0 < z < 5.0) results presented in the literature. Using cloudy-based locally optimally emitting cloud photoionization model relations between metallicity and emission-line flux ratios, we find the observable properties of the broad emission lines to be consistent with emission from gas clouds with metallicity that are at least 2–4 times solar. Our high-redshift measurements also confirm that the blueshift of the C iv emission line is correlated with its equivalent width, which influences line ratios normalized against C iv. When accounting for the C iv blueshift, we find that the rest-frame UV emission-line flux ratios do not correlate appreciably with the black hole mass or bolometric luminosity.

     
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