The rotating wind of the quasar PG 1700+518

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Title: The rotating wind of the quasar PG 1700+518
Author: Young, Stuart; Axon, David; Robinson, Andrew; Hough, James; Smith, James
Abstract: It is now widely accepted that most galaxies undergo an active phase, during which a central super-massive black hole generates vast radiant luminosities through the gravitational accretion of gas1,2. Winds launched from a rotating accretion disk surrounding the black hole are thought to play a critical role, allowing the disk to shed angular momentum that would otherwise inhibit accretion3,4. Such winds are capable of depositing large amounts of mechanical energy in the host galaxy and its environs, profoundly affecting its formation and evolution5–7, and perhaps regulating the formation of large-scale cosmological structures in the early Universe8,9. Although there are good theoretical grounds for believing that outflows from active galactic nuclei originate as disk winds10, observational verification has proven elusive. Here we show that structures observed in polarized light across the broad Hα emission line in the quasar PG 1700+158 originate close to the accretion disk in an electron scattering wind. The wind has large rotational motions (~4,000 km s−1), providing direct observational evidence that outflows from active galactic nuclei are launched from the disks. Moreover, the wind rises nearly vertically from the disk, favouring launch mechanisms that impart an initial acceleration perpendicular to the disk plane.
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Date: 2008-02-27

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