Quasar outflows impact the evolution of super-massive black holes, their host galaxies, the surrounding inter-galactic medium, and cluster cooling flows. This project will analyze high-resolution spectroscopic data to measure the kinetic luminosity and chemical abundances of observed quasar winds, which are the most crucial input to these theoretical ideas. This involves three phases: 1) identifying and observing targets that contain diagnostics for the total outflowing column density and for the distance of the outflow from the central source, quantities which are currently highly uncertain; 2) measuring reliable column densities, often severely underestimated, using a new approach of global fitting to the observed outflow troughs; 3) using these column densities in velocity-dependent photoionization model grids, giving much improved densities, flow distances, abundances, and thus kinetic luminosities.
Interdisciplinary undergraduate research opportunities exist in the project's need for data mining of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey quasar database. Animation movies of winds from active galactic nuclei, created from the research, will be used in planetarium shows for the general public, along with other audio-visual tools.