Line-driven Disk Winds in Activ Galactic Nuclei: The Critical Importance of Ionization and Radiative Transfer

N. Higginbottom, D. Proga, C. Knigge, K.S. Long, J.H. Matthews, S.A. Sim

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68 Citations (Scopus)


Accretion disk winds are thought to produce many of the characteristic features seen in the spectra of active galactic nuclei (AGNs) and quasi-stellar objects (QSOs). These outflows also represent a natural form of feedback between the central supermassive black hole and its host galaxy. The mechanism for driving this mass loss remains unknown, although radiation pressure mediated by spectral lines is a leading candidate. Here, we calculate the ionization state of, and emergent spectra for, the hydrodynamic simulation of a line-driven disk wind previously presented by Proga & Kallman. To achieve this, we carry out a comprehensive Monte Carlo simulation of the radiative transfer through, and energy exchange within, the predicted outflow. We find that the wind is much more ionized than originally estimated. This is in part because it is much more difficult to shield any wind regions effectively when the outflow itself is allowed to reprocess and redirect ionizing photons. As a result, the calculated spectrum that would be observed from this particular outflow solution would not contain the ultraviolet spectral lines that are observed in many AGN/QSOs. Furthermore, the wind is so highly ionized that line driving would not actually be efficient. This does not necessarily mean that line-driven winds are not viable. However, our work does illustrate that in order to arrive at a self-consistent model of line-driven disk winds in AGN/QSO, it will be critical to include a more detailed treatment of radiative transfer and ionization in the next generation of hydrodynamic simulations.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 01 Jul 2014

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