How Do Quasars Impact Their Host Galaxies? From the Studies of Quasar Outflows in Absorption and Emission

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Virginia Tech


"Quasar-mode feedback" occurs when momentum and energy from the environment of accreting supermassive black hole couple to the host galaxy. One mechanism for such a coupling is by high-velocity (up to ~0.2c) quasar-driven ionized outflows, appearing as blue-shifted absorption and emission lines in quasar spectra. Given enough energy and momentum, these outflows are capable of affecting the evolution of their host galaxies. This dissertation presents the studies of emission and absorption quasar outflows from different perspectives.

(1). By conducting large broad absorption line (BAL) quasar surveys in both Sloan Digital Sky Survey and Very Large Telescopes (VLT), we determined various physics properties of quasar absorption outflows, e.g., the electron number density ((ne), the distance of outflows to the central quasar (𝑅), and the kinetic energy carried by the outflow (𝐸̇k). We demonstrated that half of the typical BAL outflows are situated at 𝑅 > 100 pc, i.e., having the potential to affect the host galaxies.

(2). Our group carried out a Hubble Space Telescope program (PI: Arav) for studying the outflows in the Extreme-UV, collaborating with Dr. Gerard Kriss from Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI). We developed a novel method to fit the multitude of quasar absorption troughs efficiently and accurately. We have identified the most energetic quasar-driven outflows on record and discovered the largest acceleration and velocity-shift for a quasar absorption outflow.

(3). By using the VLT data, Xu led the project to study the relationships between BAL outflows and emission line outflows. We found possible connections between these two types of quasar outflows, e.g., the luminosity of the [𝑂III λ5007 emission profile decreases with increasing ne derived from the BAL outflow in the same quasar. These findings are consistent with BAL and emission outflows being different manifestations of the same wind, and the observed relationships are likely a reflection of the outflow density distribution.



Quasar Outflow, Quasar Absorption and Emission Lines, Galaxy Evolution, Quasar Kinematics and Dynamics, Active Galactic Nuclei