Evolution of the cosmological mass density of neutral gas from Sloan Digital Sky Survey II – Data Release 7

P. Noterdaeme, P. Petitjean, C. Ledoux, R. Srianand
2009 Astronomy and Astrophysics  
We present the results of a search for damped Lyman-alpha (DLA) systems in the Sloan Digital Sky Survey II (SDSS), Data Release 7. We use a fully automatic procedure to identify DLAs and derive their column densities. The procedure is checked against the results of previous searches for DLAs in SDSS. We discuss the agreements and differences and show the robustness of our procedure. For each system, we obtain an accurate measurement of the absorber's redshift, the HI column density and the
more » ... ensity and the equivalent width of associated metal absorption lines, without any human intervention. We find 1426 absorbers with 2.15 < z < 5.2 with log N(HI)>=20, out of which 937 systems have log N(HI)>= 20.3. This is the largest DLA sample ever built, made available to the scientific community through the electronic version of this paper. In the course of the survey, we discovered the intervening DLA with highest HI column density known to date with log N(HI)=22.0+/-0.1. This single system provides a strong constraint on the high-end of the N(HI) frequency distribution now measured with high accuracy. We show that the presence of a DLA at the blue end of a QSO spectrum can lead to important systematic errors and propose a method to avoid them. This has important consequences for the measurement of the cosmological mass density of neutral gas at z~2.2 and therefore on our understanding of galaxy evolution over the past 10 billion years. [truncated]
doi:10.1051/0004-6361/200912768 fatcat:orgboqjqtfaoppqmt36fmd3d7y