The size and origin of metal-enriched regions in the intergalactic medium from spectra of binary quasars

Crystal L. Martin, Evan Scannapieco, Sara L. Ellison, Joseph F. Hennawi, S. G. Djorgovski, Amanda P. Fournier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Scopus citations


We present tomography of the circum-galactic metal distribution at redshift 1.7-4.5 derived from echellete spectroscopy of binary quasars. We find Civ systems at similar redshifts in paired sightlines more often than expected for sightline-independent redshifts. As the separation of the sightlines increases from 36 kpc to 907 kpc, the amplitude of this clustering decreases. At the largest separations, the C iv systems cluster similar to the Lyman-break galaxies studied by Adelberger et al. in 2005. The C iv systems are significantly less correlated than these galaxies, however, at separations less than R1 ≃ 0.42 ± 0.15 h-1 comovingMpc. Measured in real space, i.e., transverse to the sightlines, this length scale is significantly smaller than the break scale estimated previously from the line-of-sight correlation function in redshift space by Scannapieco et al. in 2006. Using a simple model, we interpret the new real-space measurement as an indication of the typical physical size of enriched regions.We adopt this size for enriched regions and fit the redshift-space distortion in the line-of-sight correlation function. The fitted velocity kick is consistent with the peculiar velocity of galaxies as determined by the underlying mass distribution and places an upper limit on the average outflow (or inflow) speed of metals. The implied timescale for dispersing metals is larger than the typical stellar ages of Lyman-break galaxies, and we argue that enrichment by galaxies at z > 4.3 played a greater role in dispersing metals. To further constrain the growth of enriched regions, we discuss empirical constraints on the evolution of the C iv correlation function with cosmic time. This study demonstrates the potential of tomography for measuring the metal enrichment history of the circum-galactic medium.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)174-192
Number of pages19
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Sep 20 2010


  • Cosmology: miscellaneous
  • Galaxies: abundances
  • Galaxies: halos
  • Galaxies: high-redshift
  • Intergalactic medium
  • Quasars: absorption lines

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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