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.
|Number of pages||3|
|Publication status||Published - 6-May-2004|
- GALACTIC NUCLEI
- NGC 1068