STScI Preprint #1198
Results are presented from a programme of detailed longslit spectroscopic observations of the extended emission-line region (EELR) associated with the powerful radio galaxy PKS 2356-61. The observations have been used to construct spectroscopic datacubes, which yield detailed information on the spatial variations of emission-line ratios across the EELR, together with its kinematic structure. We present an extensive comparison between the data and results obtained from the MAPPINGS II shock ionization code, and show that the physical properties of the line-emitting gas, including its ionization, excitation, dynamics and overall energy budget, are entirely consistent with a scenario involving auto-ionizing shocks as the dominant ionization mechanism. This has the advantage of accounting for the observed EELR properties by means of a single physical process, thereby requiring less free parameters than the alternative scheme involving photoionization by radiation from the active nucleus. Finally, possible mechanisms of shock formation are considered in the context of the dynamics and origin of the gas, specifically scenarios involving infall or accretion of gas during an interaction between the host radio galaxy and a companion galaxy.