Metal lines associated with Lyα absorbers: A comparison of theory and observations

Uffe Hellsten, Romeel Davé, Lars Hernquist, David H. Weinberg, Neal Katz

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41 Scopus citations


We study the metal-line absorption of C IV, C II, Si IV, and N V at redshifts z = 3.5 to z = 2 within the framework of a cosmological model for the Lyα forest, comparing the results of numerical simulations to recent observations by Songaila & Cowie (SC). We find that the observed mean value of the C IV/H I ratio at z ≃ 3 is reproduced if a uniform metallicity of [C/H] ∼ -2.5 is assumed in our model, but that the observed scatter in this ratio is larger than predicted, implying a scatter of roughly an order of magnitude in the metallicity of the absorbing systems. The enrichment pattern that is required for our model to match SC's C IV observations is very similar to that predicted by other simulations of reionization and early metal enrichment in this type of cosmological scenario. Our model predicts no significant evolution in the mean values of metal-line column densities between z = 3.5 and z = 2. Comparison of the predicted and observed numbers of Si IV and N V systems suggests that the photoionizing background radiation field at z ∼ 3 is somewhat softer than that proposed earlier. Our model does not account for the increase in the Si IV/C IV ratio at z ≳ 3.2 found by SC. While the latter study suggested that the increase could be explained by a softening of the radiation field caused by He II absorption at z ≳ 3, such a modification does not raise the mean value of Si IV/C IV significantly in our simulation, because it shifts numerous weak Si IV systems to just above the detection limit, thus keeping the mean column density of observable Si IV systems low.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)482-488
Number of pages7
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2 PART I
StatePublished - 1997
Externally publishedYes


  • Cosmology: theory
  • Galaxies: abundances
  • Galaxies: evolution
  • Quasars: absorption lines

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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