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Title: The chemical evolution of QSO absorbers
Author: Ellison, S. L.
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2001
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Using quasar absorption lines as a probe of the high redshift universe is a powerful tool in the field of chemical evolution. In this thesis, I consider the elemental abundances in absorbers that correspond to a variety of environments, ranging from high redshift galaxies to the low density intergalactic medium. I firstly address the question of abundances in intermediate redshift (zabs < 1.5) damped Lyα systems (DLAs), objects believed to correspond to the progenitors of present day massive galaxies. I present Hubble Space Telescope (HST) spectra of six intermediate redshift DLAs which have been supplemented with high resolution spectroscopy obtained with the high resolution echelle spectrograph (HIRES) on the Keck telescope. The chemical abundances of a range of elements are investigated and compared with local Galactic values in order to gain an insight into the metallicities, dust-to-gas ratios and star formation histories of these systems. The results from this work have inspired a new survey for DLAs based on a radio-selected sample of QSOs. The motivation for this endeavour has been to determine the extent to which our current view of distant galaxies is obscured by dust. I present intermediate resolution spectra obtained at the Anglo-Australian Telescope (AAT) from which DLAs may be identified. The number statistics of the newly discovered DLAs are analysed in order to determine whether obscuration by dust of background QSOs causes a significant observational bias. Finally, I consider the metallicity of the IGM by studying C IV systems associated with the Lyα forest at z ~ 3. The extent to which the IGM has been polluted with metals will provide important clues to the enrichment mechanism. I firstly investigate the column density distribution function of strong C IV absorbers associated with high column density Lyα clouds. This work is then extended to consider the C IV/H 1 ratio in low column density absorbers which are associated with physically less dense material. The spectra of two high redshift QSOs are analysed using two different techniques, both of which are critically assessed using synthetic spectra.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available