The Nature of X-ray Absorbed Starburst QSOs and the QSO Evolutionary Scheme
Page, M. J.
Ivison, Rob J.
In contradiction to the simple AGN unification schemes, there exists a significant population of broad line, z ~ 2 QSOs which have heavily absorbed X-ray spectra. These objects have luminosities and redshifts characteristic of the sources that produce the bulk of the QSO luminosity in the universe. Our follow up observations in the submillimetre show that these QSOs are embedded in ultraluminous starburst galaxies, unlike most unabsorbed QSOs at the same redshifts and luminosities. The radically different star formation properties between the absorbed and unabsorbed QSOs implies that the X-ray absorption is unrelated to the torus invoked in AGN unification schemes. The most puzzling question about these objects is the nature of the X-ray absorber. We present our study of the Xray absorbers based on deep (50–100ks) XMM-Newton spectroscopy. The hypothesis of a normal QSO continuum, coupled with a neutral absorber is strongly rejected. We consider the alternative hypotheses for the absorber, originating either in the QSO or in the surrounding starburst. Finally we discuss the implications for QSO/host galaxy formation, in terms of an evolutionary sequence of star formation and black hole growth. We propose that both processes occur simultaneously in the gas-anddust- rich heavily obscured centres of young galaxies, and that absorbed QSOs form a transitional stage, between the main obscured growth phase, and the luminous QSO.