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Massive Molecular Outflows and Evidence for AGN Feedback from CO Observations

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We study the properties of massive, galactic-scale outflows of molecular gas and investigate their impact on galaxy evolution. We present new IRAMPdBI CO 1-0 observations of local ultra-luminous infrared galaxies ULIRGs and quasar-hosts a clear signature of massive and energetic molecular outflows, extending on kpc scales, is found in the CO1-0 kinematics of four out of seven sources with measured outflow rates of several 100 Msolaryrexp-1. We combine these new observations with data from the literature, and explore the nature and origin of massive molecular outflows within an extended sample of 19 local galaxies have an outflow rate comparable to their star formation rate SFR, or even higher by a factor of approximately 2--4, implying that starbursts can indeed be effective in removing cold gas from galaxies. Nevertheless, our results suggest that the presence of an active galactic nucleus AGN can boost the outflow rate by a large factor, which is found to increase with the LAGNLbol ratio. The gas depletion time scales due to molecular outflows are anti-correlated with the presence and luminosity of an AGN in these galaxies, and range from a few hundred million years in starburst galaxies down to just a few million years in galaxies hosting powerful AGNs. In quasar hosts, the depletion time scales due to the outflow are much shorter than the depletion time scales due to star formation. We estimate the outflow kinetic power and find that, for galaxies hosting powerful AGNs, it corresponds to about 5 of the AGN luminosity, as expected by models of AGN feedback. Moreover, we find that momentum rates of about 20 LAGNc are common among the AGNdominated sources in our sample. For pure starburst galaxies, our data tentatively support models in which outflows are mostly momentum-driven by the radiation pressure from young stars onto dusty clouds.

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  • Astrophysics

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