Spectroscopic target selection in the sloan digital sky survey: The quasar sample

Gordon T. Richards, Xiaohui Fan, Heidi Jo Newberg, Michael A. Strauss, Daniel E. Vanden Berk, Donald P. Schneider, Brian Yanny, Adam Boucher, Scott Burles, Joshua A. Frieman, James E. Gunn, Patrick B. Hall, Željko Ivezić, Stephen Kent, Jon Loveday, Robert H. Lupton, Constance M. Rockosi, David J. Schlegel, Chris Stoughton, Mark SubbaRaoDonald G. York

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

836 Scopus citations


We describe the algorithm for selecting quasar candidates for optical spectroscopy in the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. Quasar candidates are selected via their nonstellar colors in ugriz broadband photometry and by matching unresolved sources to the FIRST radio catalogs. The automated algorithm is sensitive to quasars at all redshifts lower than z ∼ 5.8. Extended sources are also targeted as low-redshift quasar candidates in order to investigate the evolution of active galactic nuclei (AGNs) at the faint end of the luminosity function. Nearly 95% of previously known quasars are recovered (based on 1540 quasars in 446 deg2). The overall completeness, estimated from simulated quasars, is expected to be over 90%, whereas the overall efficiency (quasars/quasar candidates) is better than 65%. The selection algorithm targets ultraviolet excess quasars to i* = 19.1 and higher redshift (z ≳ 3) quasars to i* = 20.2, yielding approximately 18 candidates deg -2. In addition to selecting "normal" quasars, the design of the algorithm makes it sensitive to atypical AGNs such, as broad absorption line quasars and heavily reddened quasars.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2945-2975
Number of pages31
JournalAstronomical Journal
Issue number6 1758
StatePublished - Jun 2002


  • Quasars: general
  • Surveys

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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