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Cold gas removal from the centre of a galaxy by a low-luminosity jet

Abstract

The energy emitted by active galactic nuclei (AGNs) may provide a self-regulating process (AGN feedback) that shapes the evolution of galaxies. This is believed to operate along two modes, namely on galactic scales by clearing the interstellar medium via outflows, and on circumgalactic scales by preventing the cooling and accretion of gas onto the host galaxy. Radio jets associated with radiatively inefficient AGNs are known to contribute to the latter mode of feedback. However, such jets could also play a role on circumnuclear and galactic scales, blurring the distinction between the two modes. We have discovered a spatially resolved, massive molecular outflow, carrying ~75% of the gas in the central region of the host galaxy of a radiatively inefficient AGN. The outflow coincides with the radio jet 540 pc offset from the core, unambiguously pointing to the jet as the driver of this phenomenon. The modest luminosity of the radio source (L1.4 GHz = 2.1 × 1023 W Hz−1) confirms predictions of simulations that jets of low-luminosity radio sources carry enough power to drive such outflows. Including kiloparsec-scale feedback from such sources, which comprise the majority of the radio AGN population, in cosmological simulations may assist in resolving some of their limitations.

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Fig. 1: CO emission from NGC 1167.
Fig. 2: Kinematics of the cold gas.
Fig. 3: Snapshots from the simulations.
Fig. 4: Synthetic position–velocity diagrams.

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Data availability

The data presented in this paper were observed with NOEMA under project ID S20BH. The reduced data products are available at https://astrodrive.astro.rug.nl/index.php/s/e3RTJ5wnpGFGFd9 or from the corresponding authors upon reasonable request. The simulation data for which results are shown in our paper are results from earlier simulations6 and are available in raw form at www2.ccs.tsukuba.ac.jp/Astro/Members/ayw/depot/B2_0258+35/data/, where data.0000.flt, data.0037.flt and data.0100.flt are the data for time snapshots at t = 0, t = 0.2 Myr and t = 0.8 Myr, respectively (Figs. 3 and 4). These data are in a standard single-precision flt binary output format of the hydrodynamic code PLUTO that combines all thermodynamic variables into one file for one snapshot in time.

Code availability

The data were reduced using publicly available software GILDAS and AIPS. The scripts with which the data cubes from the simulations were analysed are a part of the repository at https://bitbucket.org/pandante/pluto-ug-simulation-analyzer/. In particular, the branch B2_0258+35 contains the specific tools used to obtain the analysis results and plots presented in Figs. 3 and 4. The simulations in ref. 6 were performed with the PLUTO code, publicly available at http://plutocode.ph.unito.it/. A version of the code that includes routines to set up the simulations is available at https://github.com/aywander/pluto-outflows.git and requires additional set-up data files available at https://www2.ccs.tsukuba.ac.jp/Astro/Members/ayw/depot/P45_dir45/setup/. The simulation also requires initial data of the clumpy fractal multiphase gas generated by the code pyFC, also publicly available at https://pypi.org/project/pyFC/.

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Acknowledgements

This work is based on the observations carried out under project number S20BH with the IRAM NOEMA interferometer. IRAM is supported by INSU/CNRS (France), MPG (Germany) and IGN (Spain). We thank the IRAM staff for making these observations possible. S.M. thanks O. Feher for the help with data reduction. We thank G. Fabbiano and M. Baloković for sharing the results from the Chandra/NuSTAR observations prior to publication, and M. Giroletti for sharing the FITS image of the 8.5 GHz radio continuum emission. The simulations in this paper were undertaken with the assistance of resources from the National Computational Infrastructure (NCI Australia), an NCRIS-enabled capability supported by the Australian government. A.Y.W. is supported by JSPS KAKENHI grant no. 19K03862.

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S.M. and R.M. conceived the project. S.M., R.M., P.G. and T.O. wrote the observing proposal. S.M. reduced the data. S.M., R.M. and T.O. carried out the analysis. A.Y.W., D.M. and G.B. contributed to the simulations. S.M., R.M. and A.Y.W. wrote the manuscript. All the authors discussed the results and commented on the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Suma Murthy or Raffaella Morganti.

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Murthy, S., Morganti, R., Wagner, A.Y. et al. Cold gas removal from the centre of a galaxy by a low-luminosity jet. Nat Astron 6, 488–495 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41550-021-01596-6

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