On the Fine-tuning and Physical Origin of Line-locked Absorption Systems in Active Galaxies

Tiffany R. Lewis, Doron Chelouche

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Line locking (LL) of absorption-line systems is a clear signature of the dynamical importance of radiation-pressure force in driving astrophysical flows, with recent findings suggesting that it may be common in quasars exhibiting multiple intrinsic narrow absorption-line (NAL) systems. In this work, we probe the phase space conducive to LL and follow the detailed kinematics of those systems that may lock at the velocity separation of the C iv λ λ1548.19, 1550.77 doublet. We find that a small volume of the phase-phase admits LL, suggesting a high degree of fine-tuning between the physical properties of locked systems. The stability of LL against quasar luminosity variations is quantified with implications for the long-term variability amplitude of quasars and the velocity-separation statistic between multiple NAL systems. The high occurrence of LL by the C iv doublet implies that the hidden extreme-UV emission from quasars is unlikely to be significantly underestimated by current models. Further, the ratio of the LL velocity to the outflow velocity may serve as a powerful constraint on the composition of the accelerating medium. We conclude that LL poses significant challenges to current theories for the formation of nonintervening NAL systems, and speculate that it may be a manifestation of expanding circumstellar shells around asymptotic giant branch stars in the quasar-host bulge.

Original languageEnglish
Article number110
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023. The Author(s). Published by the American Astronomical Society.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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