HST-COS Observations Of AGNs. II. Extended Survey Of Ultraviolet Composite Spectra From 159 Active Galactic Nuclei

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Stevans, Matthew L.
Shull, J. Michael
Danforth, Charles W.
Tilton, Evan M.

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The ionizing fluxes from quasars and other active galactic nuclei (AGNs) are critical for interpreting their emissionline spectra and for photoionizing and heating the intergalactic medium. Using far-ultraviolet (FUV) spectra from the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph (COS) on the Hubble Space Telescope (HST), we directly measure the rest-frame ionizing continua and emission lines for 159 AGNs at redshifts 0.001 < Z(AGN) < 1.476 and construct a composite spectrum from 475 to 1875 A. We identify the underlying AGN continuum and strong extreme ultraviolet (EUV) emission lines from ions of oxygen, neon, and nitrogen after masking out absorption lines from the HI Ly alpha forest, 7 Lyman-limit systems (N-HI, 10(17.2) Cm-2) and 214 partial Lyman-limit systems (14.5 < log N-HI < 17.2). The 159 AGNs exhibit a wide range of FUV/EUV spectral shapes, F-V, proportional to v(proportional to v)(4, typically with -2 <= alpha(v), <= 0 and no discernible continuum edges at 912 angstrom (HI) or 504 angstrom (He I). The composite rest-frame continuum shows a gradual break at lambda(br) approximate to 1000 angstrom, with mean spectral index alpha(v) = -0.83 +/- 0.09 in the FUV (1200-2000 angstrom) steepening to alpha(v), = -1.41 +/- 0.15 in the EUV (500-1000 angstrom). We discuss the implications of the UV flux turnovers and lack of continuum edges for the structure of accretion disks, AGN mass inflow rates, and luminosities relative to Eddington values.



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Stevans, Matthew L., J. Michael Shull, Charles W. Danforth, and Evan M. Tilton. "HST-COS Observations of AGNs. II. Extended Survey of Ultraviolet Composite Spectra from 159 Active Galactic Nuclei." The Astrophysical Journal, Vol. 794, No. 1 (Oct., 2014): 75.