The central dusty torus in the active nucleus of NGC 1068

W Jaffe*, K Meisenheimer, HJA Rottgering, C Leinert, A Richichi, O Chesneau, D Fraix-Burnet, A Glazenborg-Kluttig, GL Granato, U Graser, B Heijligers, R Kohler, F Malbet, GK Miley, F Paresce, JW Pel, G Perrin, F Przygodda, M Schoeller, H SolLBFM Waters, G Weigelt, J Woillez, PT de Zeeuw

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

378 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Active galactic nuclei (AGNs) display many energetic phenomena - broad emission lines, X-rays, relativistic jets, radio lobes originating from matter falling onto a supermassive black hole. It is widely accepted that orientation effects play a major role in explaining the observational appearance of AGNs. Seen from certain directions, circum-nuclear dust clouds would block our view of the central powerhouse(1,2). Indirect evidence suggests that the dust clouds form a parsec-sized torus-shaped distribution. This explanation, however, remains unproved, as even the largest telescopes have not been able to resolve the dust structures. Here we report interferometric mid-infrared observations that spatially resolve these structures in the galaxy NGC 1068. The observations reveal warm (320 K) dust in a structure 2.1 parsec thick and 3.4 parsec in diameter, surrounding a smaller hot structure. As such a configuration of dust clouds would collapse in a time much shorter than the active phase of the AGN(3), this observation requires a continual input of kinetic energy to the cloud system from a source coexistent with the AGN.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)47-49
Number of pages3
JournalNature
Volume429
Issue number6987
Publication statusPublished - 6-May-2004

Keywords

  • GALACTIC NUCLEI
  • NGC 1068
  • INFRARED-SPECTRA
  • SPECTROSCOPY
  • EMISSION
  • VLTI

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