The Optical/Near-IR Colors of Broad Absorption Line Quasars, Including the Candidate Radio-Loud BAL Quasar 1556+3517

Hall, P.B., Martini, P., DePoy, D.L., and Gatley, I. 1997, ApJ, 484, L17

A candidate radio-loud broad absorption line quasar (RLBAL) has been reported by Becker et al. (1997). We present JHK observations of this object and three other radio-detected BALs taken with the new Michigan-Dartmouth-MIT/Ohio State/ALADDIN IR Camera (MOSAIC) on the KPNO 4-meter. The candidate RLBAL 1556+3517 has B-K=6.63, redder than all but one or two known z > 1 quasars. This strongly suggests the observed continuum of this quasar is reddened by dust. Even when this extreme reddening is taken into account 1556+3517 is still probably radio-loud, although near-IR spectroscopy to measure its Balmer decrement will be needed to verify this. In addition, since it is a flat-spectrum object, VLBI observations to determine the extent (if any) to which beaming affects our estimate of its radio luminosity will be needed before 1556+3517 can be unequivocally declared a radio-loud BAL. We also use our data and literature data to show that BALs as a class have B-K colors consistent with the observed distribution for quasars as a whole. Thus there is currently no evidence that the tendency of BALs to preferentially be radio-intermediate (Francis, Hooper, and Impey 1993) is due to extinction artificially lowering estimated BAL optical luminosities. However, as most quasar surveys, both radio and optical, would be insensitive to a population of reddened radio-quiet BALs, the existence of a large population of reddened BALs similar to 1556+3517 cannot yet be ruled out.

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