Classification of Broad Absorption Line Quasars with a Convolutional Neural Network
Quasars that exhibit blueshifted, broad absorption lines (BAL QSOs) are an important probe of black hole feedback on galaxy evolution. Yet the presence of BALs is also a complication for large spectroscopic surveys that use quasars as cosmological probes because the BAL features can affect redshift measurements and contaminate information about the matter distribution in the Lyα forest. We present a new BAL QSO catalog for quasars in the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) Data Release 14 (DR14). As the SDSS DR14 quasar catalog has over 500,000 quasars, we have developed an automated BAL classifier with a Convolutional Neural Network (CNN). We trained our CNN classifier on the C iv λ 1549 region of a sample of quasars with reliable human classifications, and compared the results to both a dedicated test sample and visual classifications from the earlier SDSS DR12 quasar catalog. Our CNN classifier correctly classifies over 98% of the BAL quasars in the DR12 catalog, which demonstrates comparable reliability to human classification. The disagreements are generally for quasars with lower signal-to-noise ratio spectra and/or weaker BAL features. Our new catalog includes the probability that each quasar is a BAL, the strength, blueshifts and velocity widths of the troughs, and similar information for any Si iv λ 1398 BAL troughs that may be present. We find significant BAL features in 16.8% of all quasars with 1.57 <5.56 in the SDSS DR14 quasar catalog.
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