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On the structure and energetics of quasar broad absorption-line outflows

Abstract : Quasar accretion-disc outflows might play an important role in galaxy evolution, but they are notoriously difficult to study due to line saturation and blending problems in the Ly α forest. We circumvent these problems by constructing median composite spectra of diverse broad absorption lines (BALs) and `mini-BALs' in SDSS-III BOSS quasars at redshifts 2.3 ≤ z ≤ 3.5. Sorting by C IV λλ1549,1551 absorption-line strength with Al III λλ1855,1863 as an additional indicator of low ionizations (LoBALs) we find the following: (1) Deeper and broader BALs are accompanied by weaker He II λ1640 emission lines, consistent with softer ionizing spectra producing more effective radiative acceleration. (2) P V λλ1118,1128 absorption is present with resolved ∼1:1 depth ratios in all composites from mini-BALs to strong BALs indicating that line saturation, large total column densities log NH(cm-2) ≳ 22.7, and large ionization parameters log U ≳ -0.5 are common. (3) Different observed depths in saturated lines identify inhomogeneous partial covering on spatial scales ≲0.006 pc, where weak/low-abundance transitions like P V form in small high-column density clumps while stronger/broader lines like C IV form in larger regions. (4) Excited-state S IV* λ1073 and C III* λ1176 lines in BAL outflows indicate typical densities ne ≳ 3 × 105 cm-3 and maximum radial distances R ≲ 23 pc from the quasars. (5) For reasonable actual distances, the median BAL outflow has minimum kinetic energy LK/L ≳ 0.005(R/1.2 pc) sufficient for feedback to galaxy evolution. (6) LoBAL quasars have the largest median outflow column densities, highest velocities, and weakest He II λ1640 emission in our study; they appear to be at one extreme in a distribution of quasar properties where softer ionizing spectra drive more powerful outflows.
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Submitted on : Thursday, May 12, 2022 - 6:42:21 PM
Last modification on : Saturday, May 14, 2022 - 3:03:49 AM

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Fred Hamann, Hanna Herbst, Isabelle Paris, Daniel Capellupo. On the structure and energetics of quasar broad absorption-line outflows. Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, Oxford University Press (OUP): Policy P - Oxford Open Option A, 2019, 483, pp.1808-1828. ⟨10.1093/mnras/sty2900⟩. ⟨insu-03666772⟩

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