Black hole masses and enrichment of z ~ 6 SDSS quasars

Kurk, Jaron D.
Walter, Fabian
Fan, Xiaohui
Jiang, Linhua
Riechers, Dominik A.
Rix, Hans-Walter
Pentericci, Laura
Strauss, Michael A.
Carilli, Chris
Wagner, Stefan
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We present sensitive near-infrared spectroscopic observations for a sample of five z ~ 6 quasars. These are amongst the most distant, currently known quasars in the universe. The spectra have been obtained using ISAAC at the VLT and include the CIV, MgII and FeII lines. We measure the FeII/MgII line ratio, as an observational proxy for the Fe/alpha element ratio. We derive a ratio of 2.7+/-0.8 for our sample, which is similar to that found for lower redshift quasars, i.e., we provide additional evidence for the lack of evolution in the FeII/MgII line ratio of quasars up to the highest redshifts. This result demonstrates that the sample quasars must have undergone a major episode of iron enrichment in less than one Gyr and star formation must have commenced at z > 8. The linewidths of the MgII and CIV lines give two estimates for the black hole masses. A third estimate is given by assuming that the quasars emit at their Eddington luminosity. The derived masses using these three methods agree well, implying that the quasars are not likely to be strongly lensed. We derive central black hole masses of 0.3-5.2 10^9 solar masses. We use the difference between the redshift of MgII (a proxy for the systemic redshift of the quasar) and the onset of the Gunn Peterson trough to derive the extent of the ionized Stromgren spheres around our target quasars. The derived physical radii are about five Mpc. Using a simple ionization model, the emission of the central quasars would need of order 10^6-10^8 year to create these cavities in a surrounding intergalactic medium with a neutral fraction between 0.1 and 1.0. As the e-folding time scale for the central accreting black hole is on the order of a few times 10^7 year, it can grow by one e-folding or less within this time span.
Comment: Accepted by ApJ, 15 pages, 8 figures