A direct image of the obscuring disk surrounding an active galactic nucleus

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Title: A direct image of the obscuring disk surrounding an active galactic nucleus
Author: Gallimore, Jack; Baum, Stefi; O'Dea, Christopher
Abstract: Active galactic nuclei (AGN) are generally accepted to be powered by the release of gravitational energy in a compact accretion disk surrounding a massive black hole. Such disks are also necessary to collimate powerful radio jets seen in some AGN. The unifying classification schemes for AGN further propose that differences in their appearance can be attributed to the opacity of the accreting material, which may obstruct our view of the central region of some systems. The popular model for the obscuring medium is a parsec-scale disk of dense molecular gas, although evidence for such disks has been mostly indirect, as their angular size is much smaller than the resolution of conventional telescopes. Here we report the first direct images of a pc-scale disk of ionised gas within the nucleus of NGC 1068, the archetype of obscured AGN. The disk is viewed nearly edge-on, and individual clouds within the ionised disk are opaque to high-energy radiation, consistent with the unifying classification scheme. In projection, the disk and AGN axes align, from which we infer that the ionised gas disk traces the outer regions of the long-sought inner accretion disk.
Description: RIT community members may access full-text via RIT Libraries licensed databases: http://library.rit.edu/databases/
Record URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1850/1856
Publishers URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/42201
Date: 1997-08-28

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