Astronomy and Astrophysics, volume 379, 393-406 (2001/11-4)
The CORALS survey. I: New estimates of the number density and gas content of damped Lyman alpha systems free from dust bias.
ELLISON S.L., YAN L., HOOK I.M., PETTINI M., WALL J.V. and SHAVER P.
Abstract (from CDS):
We present the first results from the Complete Optical and Radio Absorption Line System (CORALS) survey. We have compiled a homogeneous sample of radio-selected QSOs from the Parkes Catalogue and searched for damped Lyman alpha systems (DLAs) towards every target, irrespective of its optical magnitude. This approach circumvents selection effects - particularly from intervening dust - which have long been suspected to affect DLA surveys in optically-selected, magnitude-limited QSO samples. The CORALS data set consists of 66 zem≥2.2 QSOs in which 22 DLAs with absorption redshifts 1.8≤zabs≤zem have been identified over a total redshift interval Δz=55.46. Three of the DLAs are classified as ``associated'' systems with zabs∼zem; of the 19 intervening DLAs, 17 are new discoveries. In this first paper of the CORALS series we describe the sample, present intermediate resolution spectroscopy and determine the population statistics of DLAs. We deduce a value of the neutral gas mass density traced by DLAs (expressed as a fraction of the closure density) logΩDLA h=-2.59+0.17–0.24, and a number density of DLAs per unit redshift n(z)=0.31+0.09–0.08, both at a mean redshift <z≥2.37. Both values are only marginally higher than those measured in optically selected samples of QSOs. Taking into account the errors, we conclude that dust-induced bias in previous surveys may have led to an underestimate of these quantities by at most a factor of two. While n(z) is greater in fainter (B > 20) QSOs, the effect is only at the ∼1σ level and we have not uncovered a previously unrecognised population of high column density (N(HI)>1021cm–2) DLAs in front of faint QSOs. These conclusions are tentative because of the limited size of our data set; in particular the distribution of column densities is poorly sampled at the high end where a much larger survey of radio-selected QSOs is required the improve the statistics.
galaxies: quasars: absorption lines - ISM: dust, extinction - galaxies: evolution
Table 3: [EYH2001] QSO JHHMM+DDMM abs N.NNN N=22. Text: [EYH2001] BHHMM+DDda N=8.
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