Volume 518, July-August 2010Herschel: the first science highlights
|Number of page(s)||4|
|Published online||24 August 2010|
Letter to the Editor
Quasar feedback revealed by giant molecular outflows
Laboratoire AIM, DSM/Irfu/Service d'Astrophysique, CEA Saclay, 91191 Gif-sur-Yvette, France e-mail: email@example.com
2 INAF - Osservatorio Astronomico di Roma, via Frascati 33, 00040 Monteporzio Catone, Italy e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Accepted: 28 July 2010
In the standard scenario for galaxy evolution young star-forming galaxies transform into red bulge-dominated spheroids, where star formation has been quenched. To explain this transformation, a strong negative feedback generated by accretion onto a central super-massive black hole is often invoked. The depletion of gas resulting from quasar-driven outflows should eventually stop star-formation across the host galaxy and lead the black hole to “suicide” by starvation. Direct observational evidence for a major quasar feedback onto the host galaxy is still missing, because outflows previously observed in quasars are generally associated with the ionized component of the gas, which only accounts for a minor fraction of the total gas content, and typically occurrs in the central regions. We used the IRAM PdB Interferometer to observe the CO(1-0) transition in Mrk 231, the closest quasar known. Thanks to the wide band we detected broad wings of the CO line, with velocities of up to 750 km s-1 and spatially resolved on the kpc scale. These broad CO wings trace a giant molecular outflow of about 700 /year, far larger than the ongoing star-formation rate (~200 /year) observed in the host galaxy. This wind will totally expel the cold gas reservoir in Mrk 231 in about 107 yrs, therefore halting the star-formation activity on the same timescale. The inferred kinetic energy in the molecular outflow is ~1.2 × 1044 erg/s, corresponding to a few percent of the AGN bolometric luminosity, which is very close to the fraction expected by models ascribing quasar feedback to highly supersonic shocks generated by radiatively accelerated nuclear winds. Instead, the contribution by the SNe associated with the starburst fall short by several orders of magnitude to account for the kinetic energy observed in the outflow. The direct observational evidence for quasar feedback reported here provides solid support to the scenarios ascribing the observed properties of local massive galaxies to quasar-induced large-scale winds.
Key words: galaxies: active / galaxies: individual: Mrk 231 / quasars: general / galaxies: evolution
© ESO, 2010
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