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Are we seeing accretion flows in a 250 kpc Lyα halo at z = 3?

J. Vernet, M. D. Lehnert, C. de Breuck, M. Villar Martín, D. Wylezalek, T. Falkendal, G. Drouart, S. Kolwa, A. Humphrey, B. P. Venemans, F. Boulanger

Using MUSE on the ESO-VLT, we obtained a four-hour exposure of the z=3.12 radio galaxy MRC 0316-257. We detect features down to ~10-19 erg s-1 cm-2 arcsec-2, with the highest surface brightness regions reaching more than a factor of 100 higher. We find Lyα emission out to ~250 kpc in projection from the active galactic nucleus (AGN). The emission shows arc-like morphologies arising at 150−250 kpc from the nucleus in projection, with the connected filamentary structures reaching down into the circumnuclear region. The most distant arc is offset by ~700 km s-1 relative to circumnuclear HeIIλ1640 emission, which we assume to be at the systemic velocity. As we probe emission closer to the nucleus, the filamentary emission narrows in projection on the sky, the relative velocity decreases to ~250 km s-1, and the line full-width at half maximum ranges from ~300−700 km s-1. From UV line ratios, the emission on scales of 10s of kpc from the nucleus along a wide angle in the direction of the radio jets is clearly excited by the radio jets and ionizing radiation of the AGN. Assuming ionization equilibrium, the more extended emission outside of the axis of the jet direction would require 100% or more illumination to explain the observed surface brightness. High-speed (≳300 km s-1) shocks into rare gas would provide sufficiently high surface brightness. We discuss the possibility that the arcs of Lyα emission represent accretion shocks and the filamentary emission represents gas flows into the halo, and compare our results with gas accretion simulations.

galaxies: evolution; galaxies: high-redshift; galaxies: active; galaxies: ISM; galaxies: halos; Astrophysics - Astrophysics of Galaxies

Based on observations made with ESO Telescopes at the La Silla Paranal Observatory under program ID 094.B-0699(A).

Astronomy & Astrophysics
Volume 602, Article Number L6, Number of pages 4
2017 June

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Faculdade de Ciências da Universidade de Lisboa Universidade do Porto Faculdade de Ciências e Tecnologia da Universidade de Coimbra
Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia COMPETE 2020 PORTUGAL 2020 União Europeia