Quiescent galaxies with little or no ongoing star formation dominate the population of galaxies with masses above 2 × 1010 times that of the Sun; the number of quiescent galaxies has increased by a factor of about 25 over the past ten billion years (refs 1, 2, 3, 4). Once star formation has been shut down, perhaps during the quasar phase of rapid accretion onto a supermassive black hole5,6,7, an unknown mechanism must remove or heat the gas that is subsequently accreted from either stellar mass loss8 or mergers and that would otherwise cool to form stars9,10. Energy output from a black hole accreting at a low rate has been proposed11,12,13, but observational evidence for this in the form of expanding hot gas shells is indirect and limited to radio galaxies at the centres of clusters14,15, which are too rare to explain the vast majority of the quiescent population16. Here we report bisymmetric emission features co-aligned with strong ionized-gas velocity gradients from which we infer the presence of centrally driven winds in typical quiescent galaxies that host low-luminosity active nuclei. These galaxies are surprisingly common, accounting for as much as ten per cent of the quiescent population with masses around 2 × 1010 times that of the Sun. In a prototypical example, we calculate that the energy input from the galaxy’s low-level active supermassive black hole is capable of driving the observed wind, which contains sufficient mechanical energy to heat ambient, cooler gas (also detected) and thereby suppress star formation.

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We are grateful to Y.-Y. Chang for checks on the SED fitting and implied SFR. We thank S. Juneau, J. Newman, H. Fu, K. Nyland, and S. F. Sánchez for discussions and comments. This work was supported by the World Premier International Research Center Initiative (WPI Initiative), MEXT, Japan, and JSPS KAKENHI grant no. 15K17603. A.W. acknowledges support of a Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellowship. S.P. acknowledges support from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS long-term invitation fellowship). M.C. acknowledges support from a Royal Society University Research Fellowship. W.R. is supported by a CUniverse Grant (CUAASC) from Chulalongkorn University. Funding for the Sloan Digital Sky Survey IV (SDSS-VI) has been provided by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the US Department of Energy Office of Science, and the Participating Institutions. SDSS-IV acknowledges support and resources from the Center for High-Performance Computing at the University of Utah. The SDSS website is www.sdss.org. SDSS-IV is managed by the Astrophysical Research Consortium for the Participating Institutions of the SDSS Collaboration, including the Brazilian Participation Group, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Carnegie Mellon University, the Chilean Participation Group, the French Participation Group, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias, The Johns Hopkins University, Kavli Institute for the Physics and Mathematics of the Universe (IPMU)/University of Tokyo, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Leibniz Institut für Astrophysik Potsdam (AIP), Max-Planck-Institut für Astronomie (MPIA Heidelberg), Max-Planck-Institut für Astrophysik (MPA Garching), Max-Planck-Institut für Extraterrestrische Physik (MPE), National Astronomical Observatory of China, New Mexico State University, New York University, University of Notre Dame, Observatório Nacional/MCTI, The Ohio State University, Pennsylvania State University, Shanghai Astronomical Observatory, UK Participation Group, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, University of Arizona, University of Colorado Boulder, University of Oxford, University of Portsmouth, University of Utah, University of Virginia, University of Washington, University of Wisconsin, Vanderbilt University and Yale University.

Author information


  1. Kavli Institute for the Physics and Mathematics of the Universe (World Premier International Research Center Initiative), The University of Tokyo Institutes for Advanced Study, The University of Tokyo, Kashiwa, Chiba 277-8583, Japan

    • Edmond Cheung
    • , Kevin Bundy
    • , Sébastien Peirani
    • , Wiphu Rujopakarn
    •  & Benedetta Vulcani
  2. Sub-department of Astrophysics, Department of Physics, University of Oxford, Denys Wilkinson Building, Keble Road, Oxford OX1 3RH, UK

    • Michele Cappellari
  3. Institut d’Astrophysique de Paris (UMR 7095, CNRS and UPMC), 98 bis Boulevard Arago, F-75014 Paris, France

    • Sébastien Peirani
  4. Department of Physics, Faculty of Science, Chulalongkorn University, 254 Phayathai Road, Pathumwan, Bangkok 10330, Thailand

    • Wiphu Rujopakarn
  5. Institute for Cosmology and Gravitation, University of Portsmouth, Dennis Sciama Building, Burnaby Road, Portsmouth PO1 3FX, UK

    • Kyle Westfall
    • , Karen L. Masters
    •  & Daniel Thomas
  6. Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Kentucky, 505 Rose Street, Lexington, Kentucky 40506-0055, USA

    • Renbin Yan
    •  & Kai Zhang
  7. Department of Astronomy, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 475 North Charter Street, Madison, Wisconsin 53706, USA

    • Matthew Bershady
    •  & David A. Wake
  8. Department of Astrophysical Sciences, Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey 08544, USA

    • Jenny E. Greene
  9. Center for Astrophysical Sciences, Department of Physics and Astronomy, The Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland 21218, USA

    • Timothy M. Heckman
  10. McDonald Observatory, Department of Astronomy, University of Texas at Austin, 1 University Station, Austin, Texas 78712-0259, USA

    • Niv Drory
  11. Space Telescope Science Institute, 3700 San Martin Drive, Baltimore, Maryland 21218, USA

    • David R. Law
  12. Department of Physical Sciences, The Open University, Milton Keynes MK7 6AA, UK

    • David A. Wake
  13. School of Physics and Astronomy, University of St Andrews, North Haugh, St Andrews, Fife KY16 9SS, UK

    • Anne-Marie Weijmans
  14. Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, 60 Garden Street, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138, USA

    • Kate Rubin
  15. Cavendish Laboratory, University of Cambridge, 19 J. J. Thomson Avenue, Cambridge CB3 0HE, UK

    • Francesco Belfiore
  16. Kavli Institute for Cosmology, University of Cambridge, Cambridge CB3 0HE, UK

    • Francesco Belfiore
  17. Department of Astronomy, Nanjing University, Nanjing 210093, China

    • Yan-mei Chen
  18. New York University Abu Dhabi, PO Box 129188, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

    • Joseph D. Gelfand
  19. Center for Cosmology and Particle Physics, New York University, Meyer Hall of Physics, 4 Washington Place, New York, New York 10003, USA

    • Joseph D. Gelfand
  20. Apache Point Observatory and New Mexico State University, PO Box 59, Sunspot, New Mexico 88349-0059, USA

    • Dmitry Bizyaev
  21. Sternberg Astronomical Institute, Moscow State University, Moscow, Russia

    • Dmitry Bizyaev
  22. Departamento de Física y Astronomía, Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad de La Serena, Cisternas 1200, La Serena, Chile

    • A. Roman-Lopes
  23. Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania 16802, USA

    • Donald P. Schneider
  24. Institute for Gravitation and the Cosmos, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania 16802, USA

    • Donald P. Schneider


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E.C. and K.B. discovered the described sources, interpreted the observations, built the wind model, and wrote the manuscript. M.C. constructed dynamical models. S.P. carried out numerical merger simulations to model the data. W.R. obtained and reduced the JVLA data. K.W. fitted disk models. K.B., R.Y., M.B., N.D., D.R.L., D.A.W., K.Z., A.W., K.L.M. and D.T. contributed to the design and execution of the survey. F.B. provided initial velocity and line-ratio maps. B.V. provided the modelled extinction map. Y.C. and K.R. contributed to the Na D interpretation. All authors contributed to the interpretation of the observations and the writing of the paper.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Edmond Cheung.

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