9.7 μm silicate features in active galactic nuclei: New insights into unification models

Y. Shi, G. H. Rieke, D. C. Hines, V. Gorjian, M. W. Werner, K. Cleary, F. J. Low, P. S. Smith, J. Bouman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

128 Scopus citations

Abstract

We describe observations of 9.7 μm silicate features in 97 AGNs, exhibiting a wide range of AGN types and of X-ray extinction toward the central nuclei. We find that the strength of the silicate feature correlates with the H i column density estimated from fitting the X-ray data, such that low H I columns correspond to silicate emission, while high columns correspond to silicate absorption. The behavior is generally consistent with unification models in which the large diversity in AGN properties is caused by viewing-angle-dependent obscuration of the nucleus. Radio-loud AGNs and radio-quiet quasars follow roughly the correlation between H I columns and the strength of the silicate feature defined by Seyfert galaxies. The agreement among AGN types suggests a high-level unification with similar characteristics for the structure of the obscuring material. We demonstrate the implications for unification models qualitatively with a conceptual disk model. The model includes an inner accretion disk (<0.1 pc in radius), a middle disk (0.1-10 pc in radius) with a dense diffuse component and with embedded denser clouds, and an outer clumpy disk (10-300 pc in radius).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)127-136
Number of pages10
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Volume653
Issue number1 I
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 10 2006

Keywords

  • Galaxies: active
  • Galaxies: nuclei

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science

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