Eight new luminous z = 6 quasars discovered via SED model fitting of VISTA, WISE and Dark Energy Survey Year 1 observations

29 Mar 2018

We present the discovery and spectroscopic confirmation with the ESO NTT and Gemini South telescopes of eight new 6.0 < z < 6.5 quasars with z$_{AB}$ < 21.0. These quasars were photometrically selected without any star-galaxy morphological criteria from 1533 deg$^{2}$ using SED model fitting to photometric data from the Dark Energy Survey (g, r, i, z, Y), the VISTA Hemisphere Survey (J, H, K) and the Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer (W1, W2). The photometric data was fitted with a grid of quasar model SEDs with redshift dependent Lyman-{\alpha} forest absorption and a range of intrinsic reddening as well as a series of low mass cool star models. Candidates were ranked using on a SED-model based $\chi^{2}$-statistic, which is extendable to other future imaging surveys (e.g. LSST, Euclid). Our spectral confirmation success rate is 100% without the need for follow-up photometric observations as used in other studies of this type. Combined with automatic removal of the main types of non-astrophysical contaminants the method allows large data sets to be processed without human intervention and without being over run by spurious false candidates. We also present a robust parametric redshift estimating technique that gives comparable accuracy to MgII and CO based redshift estimators. We find two z $\sim$ 6.2 quasars with HII near zone sizes < 3 proper Mpc which could indicate that these quasars may be young with ages < 10$^6$ - 10$^7$ years or lie in over dense regions of the IGM. The z = 6.5 quasar VDESJ0224-4711 has J$_{AB}$ = 19.75 is the second most luminous quasar known with z > 6.5.