We report the discovery of the first known probable case of a physical triple quasar. A previously known double system, QQ 1429-008 at z=2.076, is shown to contain a third, fainter QSO component at the same redshift. Deep optical and IR imaging has failed to reveal a plausible lensing galaxy group or a cluster, and we are unable to construct any viable lensing model that could lead to the observed distribution of source positions and relative intensities of the three QSO image components. There are also hints of differences in the broadband spectral energy distributions of the different components, which are more naturally understood if they are physically distinct active galactic nuclei (AGNs). Therefore, we conclude that this system is most likely a physical triple quasar, the first such close QSO grouping known at any redshift. The projected component separations are ~30-50 kpc, typical of interacting galaxy systems. The existence of this highly unusual system supports the standard picture in which galaxy interactions lead to the onset of QSO activity.Based in part on the data obtained at the W. M. Keck Observatory, a scientific partnership among the California Institue of Technology, the University of California, and NASA, made possible by the generous financial support of the W. M. Keck Foundation; data obtained with VLT/Antu telescope at ESO-Paranal Observatory; and data obtained with the Hubble Space Telescope (HST), operated by NASA. This research also made use of data obtained from the US National Virtual Observatory, which is sponsored by the NSF.
The Astrophysical Journal
- Pub Date:
- June 2007
- Galaxies: Interactions;
- Cosmology: Gravitational Lensing;
- Galaxies: Quasars: General;
- Submitted to ApJL, LaTeX, 13 pages, 4 eps figures, all included