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Quasars at all cosmic epochs

Mini Review ARTICLE

Front. Astron. Space Sci., 27 September 2017 | https://doi.org/10.3389/fspas.2017.00016

Quasar Massive Ionized Outflows Traced by CIV λ1549 and [OIII]λλ4959,5007

  • 1National Institute for Astrophysics, Osservatorio Astronomico di Padova, Rome, Italy
  • 2Instituto de Astronomía, Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico, Mexico City, Mexico
  • 3Instituto de Astrofísica de Andalucía (CSIC), Granada, Spain
  • 4Dipartimento di Fisica e Astronomia, Università di Padova, Padova, Italy
  • 5Osservatorio Astronomico di Bologna (INAF), Bologna, Italy

The most luminous quasars (with bolometric luminosities are ≳ 1047 erg/s) show a high prevalence of CIV λ1549 and [OIII]λλ4959,5007 emission line profiles with strong blueshifts. Blueshifts are interpreted as due to Doppler effect and selective obscuration, and indicate outflows occurring over a wide range of spatial scales. We found evidence in favor of the nuclear origin of the outflows diagnosed by [OIII]λλ4959,5007. The ionized gas mass, kinetic power, and mechanical thrust are extremely high, and suggest widespread feedback effects on the host galaxies of very luminous quasars, at cosmic epochs between 2 and 6 Gyr from the Big Bang. In this mini-review we summarize results obtained by our group and reported in several major papers in the last few years with an eye on challenging aspects of quantifying feedback effects in large samples of quasars.

1. Introduction

The broad and narrow high-ionization emission lines (HILs) in the optical and UV spectra of quasars frequently show significant blueshifts with respect to the quasar rest frame (e.g., Gaskell, 1982; Tytler and Fan, 1992; Corbin and Boroson, 1996; Marziani et al., 1996; Zamanov et al., 2002, for some early papers). The interpretation involves the Doppler shift of line radiation due to the emitting gas motion toward the observer, with the part of line emitted by receding gas suppressed by obscuration. In the following we will adhere with this interpretation (for a dissenting view see however, Gaskell and Goosmann, 2013 who posit that we see light originally emitted by gas falling toward the black hole and backscattered toward us), and consider [OIII]λ4959,5007 as representative of narrow high-ionization lines (HILs), and CIVλ1549 as a prototypical broad HIL.

2. The Quasar Main Sequence: Contextualizing Outflows at Low-to-Moderate L

The diversity of quasar spectroscopic properties as found in single epoch observations of large samples has been organized along a quasar main sequence (Sulentic et al., 2000a,b; Marziani et al., 2001; Shen and Ho, 2014). Boroson and Green (1992) identified a first eigenvector in their sample of ≈80 Palomar-Green quasars which is associated with an anticorrelation between FWHM (Hβ) and a parameter measuring the prominence of FeII emission (the intensity ratio between the FeII blend at λ4570 and Hβ). Along the main sequence defined by this anti-correlation, Sulentic et al. (2000a) suggested a change in properties in correspondence of FWHM Hβ ≈ 4,000 km/s, and distinguished two populations: Population A (FWHM ≲ 4,000 km/s) and B (where the B stands for broader than 4,000 km/s; e.g., Marziani et al., 2014; Fraix-Burnet et al., 2017, for reviews; Table 1 of Fraix-Burnet et al., 2017 summarized parameter systematic differences between the two populations). Population A and B have been associated with high and low accretion, respectively.

The CIVλ1549 large blueshifts (above 1,000 km/s) are a Population A phenomenon, likely associated with a disk wind (see Figure 7 of Sulentic and Marziani, 2015). Population A sources, at low z (≲ 1), encompass relatively low black hole mass quasars (~107-108M) radiating at a relatively high Eddington ratio (≳ 0.1 − 0.2). In many ways Pop. A sources can be considered as an extension of Narrow Line Seyfert 1 (NLSy1) with moderate or strong FeII emission: the limit FWHM ≈ 4,000 km/s (valid at bolometric luminosity log L ≲ 47 [erg s−1]) allows one to include sources with the same Balmer line profiles and intensity ratios as observed in NLSy1s. This is not to imply that Pop. B sources (with FWHM Hβ≳ 4,000 km/s) do not show evidence of outflows. Evidence of outflow is, for example, overwhelming in the prototypical Pop. B source NGC 5548 (Kaastra et al., 2014). The latest developments suggest that outflows are ubiquitous, also in forms that may not provide striking optical/UV spectral phenomenologies (e.g., Harrison et al., 2014; Tombesi et al., 2015). Only, outflows are more difficult to trace in Population B single-epoch spectra, as the CIV integrated line profiles are relatively symmetric. In both Pop. A and B, the CIVλ1549 line profile can be represented as a scaled Hβ profile plus an excess of blueshifted emission: the two components are assumed to be representative of a “virialized” low-ionization broad line region (producing a fairly symmetric and unshifted line) plus an outflow/wind component with different physical conditions. In Pop. B, CIVλ1549 shows only a small blueshifted excess if compared to Hβ.

Similarly, large blueshifts of [OIII]λλ4959,5007 above 250 km/s are rare in z samples (they are real statistical outliers, called “blue outliers” [BOs] by Zamanov et al., 2002) and have been preferentially found among Population A sources (e.g., Zamanov et al., 2002; Xu et al., 2012; Zhang et al., 2013; Cracco et al., 2016). Sulentic and Marziani (2015) show the distribution of [OIII]λλ4959,5007 peak shifts for the spectral types defined along the Eigenvector 1 sequence: the prevalence of [OIII]λλ4959,5007 large blueshifts increases in Pop. A and reaches a maximum in extreme sources with FeIIλ4570/Hβ ≳ 1 (Figure 5 of Sulentic and Marziani, 2015; Negrete et al., in preparation). Blueshifts of [OIII]λλ4959,5007 trace larger scale outflows than CIVλ1549, outside of the broad line region (BLR).

3. The Scenario at High L, and Intermediate-z

A recent result is that the prevalence of large blueshifts in both CIVλ1549 and [OIII]λ4959,5007 quasars is much higher at high L in intermediate-z samples (1 ≲ z ≲ 2.5, Coatman et al., 2016; Marziani et al., 2016a,b; Zakamska et al., 2016; Bischetti et al., 2017; Vietri, 2017). Blueshifts of CIVλ1549 reach several thousands km/s in Pop. A. BOs become much more frequent in the high z and L samples. The [OIII] shift and FWHM distributions at high-L are remarkably different from those of low-z, low L samples. Figure 1 shows an example of a luminous Pop. A source in the sample of Sulentic et al. (2017): the left panel shows, overlaid to the continuum-subtracted spectrum, a decomposition of the CIVλ1549 profile into an unshifted and symmetric component (thick black line) and a blue shifted component (blue line). Without involving any profile decomposition (the caveats of the technique are discussed in Negrete et al., 2014), it is easy to see that about 80% of the line flux is emitted short-wards of the rest wavelength. At the same time, the Hβ remains symmetric. Figure 1 (rightmost panel) shows an enlargement of the [OIII]λ4959,5007 profile: the FWHM ≈ 3,600 km/s is extremely broad by [OIII]λ5007 standards (at low-z, [OIII]λ5007 FWHM is ≲ 1, 000 km/s). The profile appears boxy, and fully displaced to the blue.

FIGURE 1
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Figure 1. (Left panel) CIVλ1549 emission after continuum subtraction. A scaled Hβ profile is superimposed (adapted from Sulentic et al., 2017). (Right panel) Hβ spectral range. The green line shows the adopted FeII template. The full profiles of [OIII]λλ4959,5007 are shown in orange. The thick black lines identify a symmetric unshifted emission that is dominating Hβ and still contributing to CIVλ1549. The thick blue lines trace the excess emission once the symmetric component is subtracted. The thin lines in the CIV panel show the interpretation of the HeII λ 1640 profile assuming a symmetric and a blue shifted component, as for CIV. The rightmost panel provides an enlargement on the [OIII]λλ4959,5007, semi-broad, boxy and blue-shifted profile (not a unique case at high L: e.g., Cano-Díaz et al., 2012). The [OIII] profile is modeled as the sum of a moderately blueshifted core component (black line) and of a semi-broad component, blue-shifted by ≈−2, 500 km/s (blue line). The vertical scale is 10−15 erg s−1 cm−2 Å−1 in the rest frame, as applied by Sulentic et al. (2017).

Figure 1 represents the diagnostic provided by single epoch observations for quasars at intermediate-to-high z (1–5), with CIVλ1549 covered by optical spectrometers and [OIII]λλ4959,5007 requiring near-IR spectroscopic observations. The latter have become possible for relatively faint quasars only in recent times, with the advent of second generation IR spectrometers mounted at the foci of large aperture telescopes; two major examples are XSHOOTER at VLT and LUCI at LBT. Near IR observations provide a reliable estimate of the quasar systemic redshift if the narrow component of Hβ or the [OII]λ3727 can be effectively measured. If these lines are detected above noise, then a good precision in the rest frame can be achieved, and the uncertainty is typically δz ≲ 3 · 10−4. An accurate knowledge of the rest frame is not an end in itself, since an important physical parameter such as the outflow kinetic power depends on the third power of the outflow velocity υo. The availability of such observations should increase dramatically in the next few years, providing useful data (even with lack of real spatial resolution) for a better understanding of the outflow prevalence and power as a function of luminosity and cosmic epoch. At low-z, partial spatial resolution of the [OIII]λλ4959,5007 emitting regions is currently obtained (and will be more frequently obtained in the coming years) with the use of integral-field unit spectrographs with adaptive optics (e.g., Cresci et al., 2015). Observations of CIVλ1549 are and will remain challenging for sources at z ≲ 1.2 i.e., for all the low-z quasar population.

3.1. The Nuclear Nature of the Outflow

CIVλ1549 emission is expected to originate within a few hundred gravitational radii from the central black hole even in luminous quasars (Kaspi et al., 2007). Reverberation mapping studies indicate that the CIV emitting region scaling law with luminosity is a power-law with exponent 0.5–0.7 (results by Shai Kaspi in this research topic). The nuclear nature of the CIVλ1549 outflow is not in question.

The [OIII]λλ4959,5007 prominence is affected by the “Baldwin effect” (Zhang et al., 2011), which is perhaps the main luminosity effect affecting all HILs (Dietrich et al., 2002). The observations of samples covering a wide range in luminosity (43 ≲ log L ≲ 48.5 [erg/s]) confirm the [OIII] Baldwin effect: W L5100-0.26 ± 0.03(Marziani et al., 2016b), steeper than the “classical” CIV Baldwin effect. However, a most intriguing result is that sources with large [OIII] blueshifts (the “blue outliers” of Zamanov et al., 2002) do not follow any Baldwin effect: W L51000.050 ± 0.066, as shown in Figure 4 of Marziani et al. (2016b). In other words, for sources with large blueshifts, the line luminosity is proportional to the continuum luminosity. The simplest explanation is that [OIII]λλ4959,5007 emission is due to photoionization by the nuclear continuum.

Figure 2 shows a sketch explaining this result. At low-L, emission of [OIII]λ4959,5007 shows a spiky core and a prominent blueward asymmetry, especially in Pop. B sources. If the line profile is interpreted as made of a core component and a blue shifted semi broad component, then the latter component is not dominating at low-z and low-L unless we are considering a system radiating at high- Eddington ratio: these sources show only the semi broad component. At high-L the semi-broad component becomes so luminous to overwhelm the core component whose luminosity is expected to be upper-bound by the physical size and gas content of the host galaxy (Netzer et al., 2004).

FIGURE 2
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Figure 2. The high prevalence of large [OIII]λλ4959,5007 blueshift at high L explained as a luminosity effect. The luminosity of the blue shifted component grows with the nuclear continuum luminosity, dominating the total [OIII] emission in very luminous quasars. Figure 6 of Marziani et al. (2016b) shows the same same effect in terms of EW: the EW of the core component is lower in very luminous sources because of the strong nuclear continuum, while the EW of the blue shifted component remains constant.

4. Estimates of Outflow Dynamical Parameters and Considerations on their Reliability

Computing the kinetic power and the thrust from single-epoch spectra is possible under several caveats and assumptions. Here we briefly recall a simplified way to estimate the mass of ionized gas, the mass outflow rate, the thrust, and the kinetic power of the outflow for collisional excited lines in photoionized gases (Cano-Díaz et al., 2012). The formulation of these authors allows to write the outflow parameters in a form independent from the covering and filling factor, provided that all emitting gas has the same density. The simplified approach is well-suited to elucidate the role of the most relevant outflow parameters in the computation of the thrust and kinetic power. We will then consider the specific assumptions needed to apply the following relations to [OIII] and CIV measurements from single epoch spectra.

The luminosity of any collisionally-excited line1 is given by L(line)=VjlineffdV, where jline is the line emissivity per unit volume, and can be written as: jline = hνqlunenl, where ne the electron density, and nl the number density of ions at the lower level of the transition. The collisional excitation rate at electron temperature T is qlu=βTϒluglexp(-ϵlukT), where gl is the statistical weight of the lower level, and ϒlu is the effective collision strength. The line luminosity can be connected to the mass of ionized gas since MoutionLline(ZZ)-1n-1. Up to this point the main assumptions are: (1) constant density; (2) all emitting gas being in the ionization stage that is producing the line; (3) well defined chemical abundances.

The mass outflow rate at a distance r can be written as, if the flow is confined to a solid angle of Ω of volume 43πr3Ω4π: oion=ρ Ωr2υo=MoionVΩr2υoLυor-1. This requires the knowledge of (4) a typical emitting region radius, and (5) the outflow velocity υo. Assuming a single r value is already a strong simplification, especially for [OIII]. If the line emitting gas is still being accelerated (as in the CIV case), and the terminal velocity is υterm = o, then the thrust should be ∝ Ṁo and the kinetic power of the outflow ϵ˙ ~ 12ionk2υo2Llinek2υo3r-1. A value of k=1 can be assumed for [OIII] (as explained in section 4.2). The parameters of Table 1 can be all written in the form Lliner-1n-1(Z/Z)-1υon, with 0 ≤ n ≤ 3. The BLR gas exhibits highly super-solar chemical composition (Nagao et al., 2006; Shin et al., 2013), so that assuming Z = 5Z is a reasonable choice for both [OIII] and CIV outflow, if the [OIII] emission is ascribed to a nuclear outflow. Finally, to be consistent with the idea of a bipolar outflow, all the quantities in Table 1 have been multiplied by a factor 2.

TABLE 1
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Table 1. Outflow physical parameters derived for CIV and [OIII]: mass of ionized gas, mass outflow rate, thrust and kinetic power.

It is interesting to make some considerations on the most likely values of the outflow parameters in very luminous quasars, and somehow constrain their upper limits. The considerations below are focused on very luminous quasars such as the ones studied by the WISSH project and by Sulentic et al. (2017) and Marziani et al. (2016b). We will consider here the 14 Pop. A objects of the “HE” sample of Marziani et al. (2016a,b) with 47.5 ≲ log L ≲ 48.5 erg s−1. The relations of Table 1 are scaled to values typical of the HE sample. In the redshift range 1 ≲ z ≲ 2.5 where the population of most luminous quasars peaks, the angular distance is not increasing anymore with redshift (Hogg, 1999), implying a fairly constant scale around 8 Kpc/arcsec. For standard ground based observations, with a slit width of 0.5–1 arcs, all emission from CIV is collected (obviously) and most or at least a significant fraction of [OIII] should be collected as well, although not necessarily all of it: [OIII] emission may extend to the outer boundaries of optical galaxies and even beyond (see for instance, the impressive case of NGC 5252, Tadhunter and Tsvetanov, 1989).

4.1. CIV

Estimating Lline associated with unbound gas is not trivial, since the CIV emitting gas is probably still being accelerated by strong radiation forces within the BLR. As a lower limit, one can consider the fraction of the line that is already above a projected escape velocity. A more proper approach may be to consider that the gas is outflowing (i.e., the blue shifted component of Figure 1), and use a model in which gas cloud motions are accelerated under the effects of gravitation and radiation forces (for example Netzer and Marziani, 2010). In this case the v entering the equations of the thrust and the kinetic power should be the terminal velocity υterm, larger than the outflow velocity v at rCIV. The CIV emitting region radius can be computed from the radius-luminosity relation derived for CIV, rCIVLb, with b ≈ 0.5 − 0.7 (Kaspi et al., 2007, see also contribution in the same research topic). While the density of the low-ionization part of the BLR is fairly well constrained (Negrete et al., 2012; Martínez-Aldama et al., 2015), the density of the outflowing component is not, although we can assume 8 ≤ log n ≤ 10 [cm−3], 0.2 ≤ Lline/Lline, tot ≤ 1. The thrust and the kinetic power may be larger than the values reported in Table 1 by a factor 10 and 100, respectively, if radiative acceleration drives a wind with k ≈ 10 which may be the case for high Eddington ratio (≳ 0.7, following Netzer and Marziani, 2010).

4.2. [OIII]

For reasonable values of r, almost all of the blue shifted [OIII] emission should have escaped from the BH gravitational pull (k = 1). The full value of Lline could be taken as a first guess of the outflowing gas luminosity. It is also reasonable to assume that the gas density is between the [OIII] critical density log n ~ 5.5 [cm−3] and the typical density of outer narrow line regions, log n ~ 3 [cm−3]. The distance r remains a critical parameter in the absence of spatially resolved information. The ISAAC observations of the HE sample (Marziani et al., 2016b) were carried out with a slit width of 0.6 arcs centered on the quasar: this implies that emission within ≈ 2.4 kpc was collected. Imposing mass conservation (Ṁ[OIII] ≈ ṀCIV, and [OIII] emission at critical density implies r[OIII]~[5·109/105]12~102.35~2·102 pc, if υ[OIII]CIV ≈ 5, and rCIV ≈ 1 pc. An alternative assumption is motivated by previous results on the low-z blue outliers: it was possible to model both CIV and [OIII] with the same velocity field, assuming that the two lines were emitted with a velocity a constant factor 1.5 the local virial velocity i.e., slightly above the local escape velocity (Zamanov et al., 2002, cf. Komossa et al., 2008). Then υ[OIII]/υCIV=rCIV/r[OIII, if the factor remains the same for the two lines. We derive r[OIII] ≈ 25 pc. This line of reasoning clearly emphasizes the necessity of obtaining spatially-resolved [OIII] data with density diagnostics, and of tracking the velocity field as close as possible to the nucleus in prototypical cases that could help constrain observations lacking spatial resolution.

4.3. Relation to Luminosity and Radiation Thrust

The average luminosity of the Population A HE sample sources is ≈ 1047.8 erg/s. The average peak velocity shift of the Pop. A CIV blueshifted component is ≈ −3, 000 km/s. Typical rCIV are around 1pc, and the typical CIV luminosity is 1045 erg/s. Even assuming k = 10, υo ≈ 3, 000 km/s, the ϵ˙ value is several orders of magnitude below the bolometric luminosity: logϵ˙logL - 2.4, a factor ten lower than the value of 5% efficiency needed for a structural and dynamical effect on the host galaxy (e.g., King and Pounds, 2015). This limit might however be reached if the gas density is a factor ≈10 lower than assumed. Similar considerations apply to [OIII]: if the outflow is more compact than assumed in Table 1, then an increase by a factor 10–50 is possible. However, with the values of Table 1 the estimates for logϵ˙ for [OIII] are three-four orders of magnitude below 0.05L.

The mechanical thrust values Ṁυo are also lower than the radiation trust L/c ~ 1037.3 g cm s−2. Again, Ṁυo may reach values of the same order or in excess by a factor of 20 of the radiation thrust (Zubovas and King, 2012) if n is lower in the case of CIV and r for [OIII] is ≪1 Kpc. A similar scenario involving Ṁυo and ϵ˙ too low at face values to explain the black hole—bulge mass relation was depicted by Carniani et al. (2015). Accepted at face values, these estimates suggest that, even in these very luminous quasars, the mechanical feedback estimated from mildly ionized gas may not be sufficient to reach the effect necessary for an evolutionary feedback on the host galaxy, unless the outflow parameter are stretched to the limit of plausible values. Even if the required conditions are met, the observations do not exclude an important role of the active nucleus radiation force in driving the outflow. In addition, the estimates sample only one component of the nuclear outflow: the mildly ionized one which is, especially for the BLR, associated to a relatively small amount of matter. High ionization plasma, atomic and molecular gases are not considered, although even in the local Universe we have a spectacular example of massive molecular outflow, Mark 231 (e.g., Feruglio et al., 2015).

5. Conclusion

Evidence of HIL blueshifts are ubiquitous, and at high luminosity they become impressive involving very large shifts in broad and narrow HILs. The mass outflow rates indicated by both [OIII] and CIV are extremely high, only somewhat lower than the accretion mass influx needed to sustain the observed luminosity for modest radiative efficiency (~100 M yr−1 at efficiency 0.1). Even in the most luminous quasars, it is not obvious whether powerful outflows can have the ability to disrupt the host galaxy gas. However, it is likely that [OIII] and CIV trace only a part of the mass outflow. Accounting for multiphase outflows will be one of the major challenges of present and future observational and theoretical studies.

Author Contributions

PM wrote the review. AD contributed to some of the papers reviewed in the present contribution. Other authors contributed with suggestions and critical reading.

Funding

AD and MM acknowledge financial support from the Spanish Ministry for Economy and Competitiveness through grants AYA2013-42227-P and AYA2016-76682-C3-1-P. DD and CN acknowledge support from grants PAPIIT108716, UNAM, and CONACyT221398.

Conflict of Interest Statement

The authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.

Footnotes

1. ^While the ionic stages of C3+ and O2+ are due to photoionization, the CIV and [OIII] lines are produced via collisional excitation which is dominant over recombination, as shown in detail for [OIII] in Pradhan and Nahar (2015), section 12.4.

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Keywords: galaxy evolution, quasars, feedback, outflows, quasars: emission lines, quasars: supermassive black holes

Citation: Marziani P, Negrete CA, Dultzin D, Martínez-Aldama ML, Del Olmo A, D'Onofrio M and Stirpe GM (2017) Quasar Massive Ionized Outflows Traced by CIV λ1549 and [OIII]λλ4959,5007. Front. Astron. Space Sci. 4:16. doi: 10.3389/fspas.2017.00016

Received: 10 July 2017; Accepted: 13 September 2017;
Published: 27 September 2017.

Edited by:

Jirong Mao, Yunnan Observatories, National Astronomical Observatories (CAS), China

Reviewed by:

Milan S. Dimitrijevic, Astronomical Observatory, Serbia
Anna Lia Longinotti, National Institute of Astrophysics, Optics and Electronics, Mexico

Copyright © 2017 Marziani, Negrete, Dultzin, Martínez-Aldama, Del Olmo, D'Onofrio and Stirpe. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

*Correspondence: Paola Marziani, paola.marziani@oapd.inaf.it