AGN feedback: galactic-scale outflows driven by radiation pressure on dust

Ishibashi, W. ; Fabian, A. C.

In: Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 2015, vol. 451, no. 1, p. 93-102

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    Galaxy-scale outflows, which are thought to provide the link connecting the central black hole to its host galaxy, are now starting to be observed. However, the physical origin of the mechanism driving the observed outflows, whether due to energy-driving or radiation-driving, is still debated; and in some cases, it is not clear whether the central source is an active galactic nucleus (AGN) or a nuclear starburst. Here, we study the role of radiation pressure on dust in driving galactic-scale AGN outflows, and analyse the dynamics of the outflowing shell as a function of the underlying physical parameters. We show that high-velocity outflows (≳1000kms−1) with large momentum flux (≳10 L/c) can be obtained, by taking into account the effects of radiation trapping. In particular, the high observed values of the momentum boosts can be reproduced, provided that the shell is initially optically thick to the reprocessed infrared radiation. Alternatively, the inferred measurements of the momentum flux may be significantly biased by AGN variability. In this context, the observations of powerful outflows on kiloparsec scales, with no or weak signs of ongoing nuclear activity at the present time, could be re-interpreted as relics of past AGN episodes