Context. Feedback from active galactic nuclei (AGN) is thought to play an important role in quenching star formation in galaxies. However, the efficiency with which AGN dissipate their radiative energy into the ambient medium remains strongly debated.

Aims. Enormous observational efforts have been made to constrain the energetics of AGN feedback by mapping the kinematics of the ionized gas on kpc scale. We study how the observed kinematics and inferred energetics are affected by beam smearing of a bright unresolved narrow-line region (NLR) due to seeing.

Methods. We re-analyse optical integral-field spectroscopy of a sample of twelve luminous unobscured quasi-stellar objects (QSOs) (0.4 <z< 0.7) previously presented in the literature. The point-spread function (PSF) for the observations is directly obtained from the light distribution of the broad Hβ line component. Therefore, we are able to compare the ionized gas kinematics and derived energetics of the total, truly spatially extended, and unresolved [O iii] emission.

Results. We find that the spatially resolved [O iii] line width on kpc scales is significantly narrower than the one before PSF deblending. The extended NLRs (ENLRs) appear intrinsically offset from the QSO position or more elongated which can be interpreted in favour of a conical outflow on large scales while a spherical geometry cannot be ruled out for the unresolved NLR. We find that the kinetic power at 5 kpc distance based on a spherical model is reduced by two orders of magnitude for a conical outflow and one order of magnitude for the unresolved NLR after PSF deblending. This reduced kinetic power corresponds to only 0.01−0.1 per cent of the bolometric AGN luminosity. This is smaller than the 5−10% feedback efficiency required by some cosmological simulations to reproduce the massive galaxy population. The injected momentum fluxes are close or below the simple radiation-pressure limit Lbol/c for the conical outflow model for the NLR and ENLR when beam smearing is considered.

Conclusions. Integral-field spectroscopy is a powerful tool to investigate the energetics of AGN outflows, but the impact of beam smearing has to be taken into account in the high contrast regime of QSOs. For the majority of observations in the literature, this has not been addressed carefully so that the incidence and energetics of presumed kpc-scale AGN-driven outflows still remain an unsolved issue, from an observational perspective.



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URL: https://digitalcommons.calpoly.edu/phy_fac/489