The orientation dependence of the optical continuum emission in radio-loud quasars is investigated using a new, complete sample of low-frequency-selected quasars, the Molonglo Quasar Sample (MQS). The optical continuum is found to be highly anisotropic, brightening continuously from lobe- to core-dominated quasars by 3-5mag. It is argued that aspect-dependent extinction, rather than relativistic boosting as has been previously proposed, provides the simplest explanation consistent with the data. The reddening hypothesis is supported by both the steeper optical slopes and the larger Balmer decrements found in lobe-dominated quasars, as well as the stronger anisotropy seen at blue wavelengths. The dust responsible is shown to be physically associated with the quasar, lying mostly at radii between the broad- and narrow-line regions in a clumpy distribution. Such a geometry is reminiscent of a torus. However, substantial numbers of dust clouds must lie within the torus opening angle, contributing to an increasing average optical depth with increasing viewing angle away from the jet axis, theta. In addition, the ratio of [Oiii]lambdalambda4959,5007 to [Oii]lambda3727 line flux is shown to be aspect dependent, and is consistent with partial obscuration of [Oiii] at large theta. Trends of broad-line equivalent widths with R are also presented, including evidence for the luminosity dependence of W_lambda(Mgiilambda2798).
Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
- Pub Date:
- March 1997
- GALAXIES: ACTIVE;
- QUASARS: EMISSION LINES;
- QUASARS: GENERAL;
- 14 pages, 21 figures, MNRAS accepted