Letter | Published:

Jet acceleration of the fast molecular outflows in the Seyfert galaxy IC 5063

Nature volume 511, pages 440443 (24 July 2014) | Download Citation


Massive outflows driven by active galactic nuclei are widely recognized to have a key role in the evolution of galaxies1,2,3,4, by heating the ambient gas, expelling it from the nuclear regions, and thereby affecting the star-formation histories of the galaxy bulges. It has been proposed that the powerful jets of relativistic particles (such as electrons) launched by some active nuclei can both accelerate5,6,7 and heat8 the molecular gas, which often dominates the mass budgets of the outflows5,9. Clear evidence for this mechanism, in the form of detailed associations between the molecular gas kinematics and features in the radio-emitting jets, has however been lacking. Here we report that the warm molecular hydrogen gas in the western radio lobe of the Seyfert galaxy IC 5063 is moving at high velocities—up to about 600 kilometres per second—relative to the galaxy disk. This suggests that the molecules have been accelerated by fast shocks driven into the interstellar medium by the expanding radio jets. These results demonstrate the general feasibility of accelerating molecular outflows in fast shocks driven by active nuclei.

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This work is based on observations collected at the European Southern Observatory, Chile (programme 290.B-5162). C.T. and M.R. acknowledge financial support from the UK Science and Technology Research Council. R.M. acknowledges support from the European Research Council under the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP/2007-2013)/ERC Advanced Grant RADIOLIFE-320745.

Author information


  1. Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Sheffield, Sheffield S3 7RH, UK

    • C. Tadhunter
  2. ASTRON, The Netherlands Institute of Radio Astronomy, PO Box 2, 7990 AA, Dwingeloo, The Netherlands

    • R. Morganti
    • , J. B. R. Oonk
    •  & T. Oosterloo
  3. Kapteyn Astronomical Institute, University of Groningen, PO Box 800, 9700 AV Groningen, The Netherlands

    • R. Morganti
    •  & T. Oosterloo
  4. Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, 60 Garden Street, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138, USA

    • M. Rose


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C.T. and R.M. led the project and the scientific interpretation of the data, and C.T. wrote the text of the paper. M.R. reduced the near-infrared spectroscopic data. R.O. and T.O. contributed equally to the analysis and interpretation of the results.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to C. Tadhunter.

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