Inspiraling halo accretion mapped in Ly α emission around a z ~ 3 quasar

Fabrizio Arrigoni Battaia, J. Xavier Prochaska, Joseph F. Hennawi, Aura Obreja, Tobias Buck, Sebastiano Cantalupo, Aaron A. Dutton, Andrea V. Macciò

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In an effort to search for Ly α emission from circum- and intergalactic gas on scales of hundreds of kpc around z ~ 3 quasars, and thus characterize the physical properties of the gas in emission, we have initiated an extensive fast survey with the Multi-Unit Spectroscopic Explorer (MUSE): Quasar Snapshot Observations withMUse: Search for Extended Ultraviolet eMission (QSO MUSEUM). In this work, we report the discovery of an enormous Ly α nebula (ELAN) around the quasar SDSS J102009.99+104002.7 at z = 3.164, which we followedup with deeper MUSE observations. This ELAN spans ~297 projected kpc, has an average Ly α surface brightness SBLy α ~ 6.04 × 10-18 erg s-1 cm-2 arcsec-2(within the 2σ isophote) and is associated with an additional four previously unknown embedded sources: two Ly α emitters and two faint active galactic nuclei (one type-1 and one type-2 quasar). By mapping at high significance, the line-of-sight velocity in the entirety of the observed structure, we unveiled a large-scale coherent rotation-like pattern spanning ~300 km s-1 with a velocity dispersion of < 270 km s-1, which we interpret as a signature of the inspiraling accretion of substructures within the quasar's host halo. Future multiwavelength data will complement our MUSE observations and are definitely needed to fully characterize such a complex system. None the less, our observations reveal the potential of newsensitive integral-field spectrographs to characterize the dynamical state of diffuse gas on large scales in the young Universe, and thereby witness the assembly of galaxies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3907-3940
Number of pages34
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jan 2018


  • Cosmology: observations
  • Galaxies: haloes
  • Galaxies: high-redshift
  • Intergalactic medium
  • Quasars: emission lines
  • Quasars: general

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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