What powers galactic outflows: nuclear starbursts or AGN?

W. Ishibashi and A. C. Fabian

Submitted on 21 September 2022


Galactic outflows can be powered either by nuclear starbursts (SB) or active galactic nuclei (AGN). It has been argued that extreme starbursts can power extreme outflows, without the need to invoke AGN feedback. However, contributions from past and/or hidden AGN activity cannot be ruled out. Here, we constrain the potential role of the central black hole in driving powerful outflows in starburst galaxies (with no sign of ongoing AGN activity). We examine whether the galactic outflows can be explained by AGN luminosity evolution in the framework of our AGN `radiative dusty feedback' scenario. We show that the outflow energetics of starburst galaxies in the local Universe can be quantitatively reproduced by power-law and exponential luminosity decays, coupled with radiation trapping. Likewise, a combination of heavy obscuration and mild luminosity decay may account for the energetics of galactic outflows observed in dusty star-forming galaxies in the early Universe. We discuss different physical arguments for SB vs. AGN outflow-driving, and conclude that the latter can have a major impact on the evolution of galaxies.


Comment: MNRAS, in press

Subjects: Astrophysics - Astrophysics of Galaxies; Astrophysics - Cosmology and Nongalactic Astrophysics; Astrophysics - High Energy Astrophysical Phenomena