Evolution of the quasar luminosity function over 3 < z < 5 in the cosmos survey field

D. Masters, P. Capak, M. Salvato, F. Civano, B. Mobasher, B. Siana, G. Hasinger, C. D. Impey, T. Nagao, J. R. Trump, H. Ikeda, M. Elvis, N. Scoville

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96 Scopus citations


We investigate the high-redshift quasar luminosity function (QLF) down to an apparent magnitude of I AB = 25 in the Cosmic Evolution Survey (COSMOS). Careful analysis of the extensive COSMOS photometry and imaging data allows us to identify and remove stellar and low-redshift contaminants, enabling a selection that is nearly complete for type-1 quasars at the redshifts of interest. We find 155 likely quasars at z > 3.1, 39 of which have prior spectroscopic confirmation. We present our sample in detail and use these confirmed and likely quasars to compute the rest-frame UV QLF in the redshift bins 3.1 < z < 3.5 and 3.5 < z < 5. The space density of faint quasars decreases by roughly a factor of four from z 3.2 to z 4, with faint-end slopes of β -1.7 at both redshifts. The decline in space density of faint optical quasars at z > 3 is similar to what has been found for more luminous optical and X-ray quasars. We compare the rest-frame UV luminosity functions found here with the X-ray luminosity function at z > 3, and find that they evolve similarly between z 3.2 and z 4; however, the different normalizations imply that roughly 75% of X-ray bright active galactic nuclei (AGNs) at z 3-4 are optically obscured. This fraction is higher than found at lower redshift and may imply that the obscured, type-2 fraction continues to increase with redshift at least to z 4. Finally, the implications of the results derived here for the contribution of quasars to cosmic reionization are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number169
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 20 2012


  • Galaxy: evolution
  • cosmology: observations
  • galaxies: luminosity function, mass function
  • quasars: general

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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