Shocks and Spatially Offset Active Galactic Nuclei Produce Velocity Offsets in Emission Lines

Julia M. Comerford, R. Scott Barrows, Jenny E. Greene, David Pooley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


While 2% of active galactic nuclei (AGNs) exhibit narrow emission lines with line-of-sight velocities that are significantly offset from the velocity of the host galaxy's stars, the nature of these velocity offsets is unknown. We investigate this question with Chandra/ACIS and Hubble Space Telescope/Wide Field Camera 3 observations of seven velocity-offset AGNs at z < 0.12; all seven galaxies have a central AGN, but a peak in emission that is spatially offset by <kpc from the host galaxy's stellar centroid. These spatial offsets are responsible for the observed velocity offsets and are due to shocks, either from AGN outflows (in four galaxies) or gas inflowing along a bar (in three galaxies). We compare our results with a velocity-offset AGN whose velocity offset originates from a spatially offset AGN in a galaxy merger. The optical line flux ratios of the offset AGN are consistent with pure photoionization, while the optical line flux ratios of our sample are consistent with contributions from photoionization and shocks. We conclude that these optical line flux ratios could be efficient for separating velocity-offset AGNs into subgroups of offset AGNs - which are important for studies of AGN fueling in galaxy mergers - and central AGNs with shocks, where the outflows are biased toward the most energetic outflows that are the strongest drivers of feedback.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number41
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Sep 20 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


  • galaxies: active
  • galaxies: interactions
  • galaxies: nuclei


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