Red quasars are candidate young objects in an early transition stage of massive galaxy evolution. Our team recently discovered a population of extremely red quasars (ERQs) in the Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey (BOSS) that has a suite of peculiar emission-line properties including large rest equivalent widths (REWs), unusual ‘wingless’ line profiles, large N v/Lyα, N v/C iv, Si iv/C iv and other flux ratios, and very broad and blueshifted [O iii] λ5007. Here we present a new catalogue of C iv and N v emission-line data for 216 188 BOSS quasars to characterize the ERQ line properties further. We show that they depend sharply on UV-to-mid-IR colour, secondarily on REW(C iv), and not at all on luminosity or the Baldwin Effect. We identify a ‘core’ sample of 97 ERQs with nearly uniform peculiar properties selected via i–W3 ≥ 4.6 (AB) and REW(C iv) ≥ 100 Å at redshifts 2.0–3.4. A broader search finds 235 more red quasars with similar unusual characteristics. The core ERQs have median luminosity 〈log L(ergs s−1)〉 ∼ 47.1, sky density 0.010 deg−2, surprisingly flat/blue UV spectra given their red UV-to-mid-IR colours, and common outflow signatures including BALs or BAL-like features and large C iv emission-line blueshifts. Their SEDs and line properties are inconsistent with normal quasars behind a dust reddening screen. We argue that the core ERQs are a unique obscured quasar population with extreme physical conditions related to powerful outflows across the line-forming regions. Patchy obscuration by small dusty clouds could produce the observed UV extinctions without substantial UV reddening.
- galaxies: active, quasars: absorption lines, quasars: emission lines, quasars: general