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Physics  2014 

Dust in Active Galactic Nuclei: Anomalous Silicate to Optical Extinction Ratios?

DOI: 10.1088/2041-8205/792/1/L9

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Dust plays a central role in the unification theory of active galactic nuclei (AGNs). However, little is known about the nature (e.g., size, composition) of the dust which forms a torus around the AGN. In this Letter we report a systematic exploration of the optical extinction (A_V) and the silicate absorption optical depth (\Delta\tau9.7) of 110 type 2 AGNs. We derive A_V from the Balmer decrement based on the Sloan Digital Sky Survey data, and \Delta\tau9.7 from the Spitzer/Infrared Spectrograph data. We find that with a mean ratio of A_V/\Delta\tau9.7 ~ 5.5, the optical-to-silicate extinction ratios of these AGNs are substantially lower than that of the Galactic diffuse interstellar medium (ISM) for which A_V/\Delta\tau9.7 ~ 18.5. We argue that the anomalously low A_V/\Delta\tau9.7 ratio could be due to the predominance of larger grains in the AGN torus compared to that in the Galactic diffuse ISM.


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