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Probing Dust Close to Supermassive Black Holes

16 Jun 2021, 16:00 UTC
Probing Dust Close to Supermassive Black Holes
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What’s going on deep in the centers of active galaxies, close around the supermassive black holes feeding off of their surroundings? A new study uses infrared observations to explore this inner region in one active galaxy.
A Unified Picture?
The geometric dependence of AGN types in the unified AGN model. Type 1 AGN are viewed from an angle where the central engine is visible. In Type 2 AGN, a dusty torus obscures the central engine from view. [Urry & Padovani, 1995]We know that active galactic nuclei (AGN) consist of a supermassive black hole accreting surrounding material and shining brightly across the electromagnetic spectrum. But the structure of the gas and dust close around the black hole, and the causes of the different emission we see, have remained a topic of debate.
Decades ago, scientists proposed that Type 1 and Type 2 AGN — two different categories of active galaxies with different observational properties — might be the same objects viewed from different angles. This unification scheme relies on the presence of a dusty torus — a puffed-up, donut-like dust structure close to the black hole. In this model, the torus obscures the inner, emission-line-producing gas from some viewing angles, changing ...

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