A SCUBA-2 survey of FeLoBAL QSOs: Are FeLoBALs in a `transition phase' between ULIRGs and QSOs?

Kristen Coppin, Jason A. Stevens, Duncan Farrah, James Geach, Dave M. Alexander, Ryan C. Hickox, Daniel Smith, Julie L. Wardlow, Giulio Violino

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It is thought that a class of broad absorption line (BAL) QSOs, characterised by Fe absorption features in their UV spectra (called `FeLoBALs'), could mark a transition stage between the end of an obscured starburst event and a youthful QSO beginning to shed its dust cocoon, where Fe has been injected into the interstellar medium by the starburst. To test this hypothesis we have undertaken deep SCUBA-2 850 $\mu$m observations of a sample of 17 FeLoBAL QSOs with 0.89 $\leq$ z $\leq$ 2.78 and -23.31 $\leq$ M$_{B}$ $\leq$-28.50 to directly detect an excess in the thermal emission of the dust which would probe enhanced star-formation activity. We find that FeLoBALs are not luminous sources in the submillimetre, none of them are individually detected at 850 $\mu$m, nor as a population through stacking ($F_{s}=1.14\pm0.58$ mJy). Statistical and survival analyses reveal that FeLoBALs have sub-mm properties consistent with BAL and non-BAL QSOs with matched redshifts and magnitudes. An SED fitting analysis shows that the FIR emission is dominated by AGN activity, and a starburst component is required only in 6/17 sources of our sample; moreover the integrated total luminosity of 16/17 sources is L$\geq$10$^{12}$L$_{\odot}$, high enough to classify FeLoBALs as infrared luminous. In conclusion, we do not find any evidence in support of FeLoBAL QSOs being a transition population between a ULIRG and an unobscured QSO; in particular, FeLoBALs are not characterized by a cold starburst which would support this hypothesis.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1371-1384
Number of pages14
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Early online date4 Feb 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2016


  • astro-ph.GA
  • astro-ph.CO
  • galaxoes: evolution
  • galaxies: formation
  • galaxies: high-redshift
  • quasars: absorption lines
  • submillimetre: galaxies


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