Constraining FeLoBAL outflows from absorption line variability

S. M. McGraw, J. C. Shields, F. W. Hamann, D. M. Capellupo, S. C. Gallagher, W. N. Brandt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Iron low-ionization broad absorption lines (FeLoBALs) trace a rare class of quasar outflows with large column densities and potentially large kinetic energies that might be important for 'feedback' to galaxy evolution. In order to probe the physical properties of these outflows, we conducted a multiple-epoch, absorption line variability study of 12 FeLoBAL quasars spanning a redshift range of 0.7 ≤ z ≤ 1.9 over rest-frame time-scales of ~10 d to 7.6 yr. We detect absorption line variability with ≥8σ confidence in 3 out of the 12 sources in our sample over time-scales of ~0.6 to 7.6 yr. Variable wavelength intervals are associated with ground-and excited-state Fe II multiplets, the Mg II λλ2796, 2803 doublet, Mg I λ2852, and excited-state Ni II multiplets. The observed variability along with evidence of saturation in the absorption lines favours transverse motions of gas across the line of sight as the preferred scenario, and allows us to constrain the outflow distance from the supermassive black hole to be ≲69, 7, and 60 pc for our three variable sources. In combination with other studies, these results suggest that the outflowing gas in FeLoBAL quasars resides on a range of scales and includes matter within tens of parsecs of the central source.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1379-1395
Number of pages17
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 6 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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