New quasar proximity zone size measurements at z ∼ 6 using the enlarged XQR-30 sample

Sindhu Satyavolu, Anna Christina Eilers, Girish Kulkarni, Emma Ryan-Weber, Rebecca L. Davies, George D. Becker, Sarah E.I. Bosman, Bradley Greig, Chiara Mazzucchelli, Eduardo Bañados, Manuela Bischetti, Valentina D'Odorico, Xiaohui Fan, Emanuele Paolo Farina, Martin G. Haehnelt, Laura C. Keating, Samuel Lai, Fabian Walter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4918-4933
Number of pages16
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1 2023


  • dark ages
  • first stars
  • galaxies: active
  • quasars: absorption lines
  • quasars: supermassive black holes
  • reionization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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