Metal enrichment by radiation pressure in active galactic nucleus outflows – theory and observations


E-mail: (AB); (AL)


Outflows from active galactic nuclei may be produced by absorption of continuum radiation by UV resonance lines of abundant metal ions, as observed in broad absorption line quasars (BALQs). The radiation pressure exerted on the metal ions is coupled to the rest of the gas through Coulomb collisions of the metal ions. We calculate the photon density and gas density which allow decoupling of the metal ions from the rest of the gas. These conditions may lead to an outflow composed mostly of the metal ions. We derive a method to constrain the metals/H ratio of observed UV outflows, based on the Lyα and Si iv λλ1394, 1403 absorption profiles. We apply this method to a Sloan Digital Sky Survey sample of BALQs to derive a handful of candidate outflows with a higher than solar metal/H ratio. This mechanism can produce ultra-fast UV outflows, if a shield of the continuum source with a strong absorption edge is present.