Radiation pressure confinement - IV. application to broad absorption line outflows

Alexei Baskin, Ari Laor, Jonathan Stern

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A fraction of quasars present broad absorption lines, produced by outflowing gas with typical velocities of 3000-10 000 km s-1. If the outflowing gas fills a significant fraction of the volume where it resides, then it will be highly ionized by the quasar due to its low density, and will not produce the observed UV absorption. The suggestion that the outflow is shielded from the ionizing radiation was excluded by recent observations. The remaining solution is a dense outflow with a filling factor f < 10-3. What produces such a small f? Here, we point out that radiation pressure confinement (RPC) inevitably leads to gas compression and the formation of dense thin gas sheets/filaments, with a large gradient in density and ionization along the line of sight. The total column of ionized dustless gas is a few times 1022 cm-2, consistent with the observed X-ray absorption and detectable P V absorption. The predicted maximal columns of various ions show a small dependence on the system parameters, and can be used to test the validity of RPC as a solution for the overionization problem. The ionization structure of the outflow implies that if the outflow is radiatively driven, then broad absorption line quasars should have L/LEdd ≳ 0.1.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3025-3038
Number of pages14
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number3
StatePublished - 5 Sep 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Galaxies: active
  • Quasars: absorption lines
  • Quasars: general


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