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Polarization and Structure of Broad Absorption Line Quasi-Stellar Objects


Ogle, Patrick Michael (1998) Polarization and Structure of Broad Absorption Line Quasi-Stellar Objects. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/X967-5E39.


This thesis is a spectropolarimetric survey of broad absorption line quasi-stellar objects (BAL QSO). We observed 36 BAL QSO at low resolution with the 5 m Hale Telescope at Palomar Observatory and the 10 m Keck Telescopes at the W. M. Keck Observatory.

The continuum, absorption trough, and emission line polarization of BAL QSO were studied in detail, yielding clues about the geometrical structure of gas in the inner regions of quasars. BAL QSO have, on average, higher polarization than other quasars, reinforcing the view that they are normal quasars viewed from a more equatorial aspect. However, there is a wide distribution of polarization values, which may be due to intrinsic differences in the geometry or optical depth to scattering. No correlations are found among emission line or broad absorption line properties and continuum polarization, suggesting that these properties are regulated by internal differences unrelated to viewing angle. The continuum polarization of BAL QSO is weakly wavelength dependent after correction for emission line dilution. In most objects, the polarization rises to the blue, suggesting that dust scattering or absorption may be important.

Broad emission line photons are polarized less than the continuum; and the position angle of the electric vector is rotated with respect to the continuum. The semi-forbidden C III] emission line is polarized differently than the C IV emission line in some cases, suggesting resonance scattering in the C III] emission line region. Resonantly scattered photons from the broad absorption line region are detected at high velocities red-ward and blue-ward of the C IV line center in the spectra of some objects. These photons are negatively polarized with respect to the continuum photons, showing that the broad absorption line region and the continuum scattering region are oriented perpendicular to each other.

The polarization increases in the BAL troughs, due mainly to partial coverage of the central source by the broad absorption line region. Partial coverage of the continuum and broad emission line clouds leads to difficulties in determining the true optical depth of the BAL outflow. The geometry of the intervening BAL clouds is skewed with respect to the continuum scattering region, which results in position angle rotations in the BAL. The variation of polarization with velocity in the BAL is consistent with a non-radial, accelerating outflow of ionized gas. Our polarimetry observations are consistent with a model which unifies BAL QSO and non-BAL QSO. The BAL wind appears to occupy a narrow range of equatorial latitudes. When we view a QSO through this outflow, we see the characteristic troughs in BAL QSO.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:Astronomy
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Physics, Mathematics and Astronomy
Major Option:Astronomy
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • Blandford, Roger D. (advisor)
  • Cohen, Marshall H. (co-advisor)
Group:Astronomy Department
Thesis Committee:
  • Cohen, Marshall H. (chair)
  • Blandford, Roger D.
  • Scoville, Nicholas Zabriskie
  • Soifer, B. Thomas
  • Weymann, Ray J.
Defense Date:18 May 1998
Non-Caltech Author Email:pogle (AT)
Record Number:CaltechETD:etd-09232008-090917
Persistent URL:
Ogle, Patrick Michael0000-0002-3471-981X
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:3733
Deposited By: Imported from ETD-db
Deposited On:08 Oct 2008
Last Modified:21 Dec 2019 01:58

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