Polarimetric imaging of NGC 1068 at high angular resolution in the near infrared
LESIA, Observatoire de Paris, CNRS, UPMC and Univ. Paris Diderot,
Received: 18 May 2015
Accepted: 29 June 2015
Aims. One of the main observational challenges for investigating the central regions of active galactic nuclei (AGN) at short wavelengths, using high angular resolution, and high contrast observations, is to directly detect the circumnuclear optically thick material hiding the central core emission when viewed edge-on. The lack of direct evidence is limiting our understanding of AGN, and several scenarios have been proposed to cope for the diverse observed aspects of activity in a unified approach.
Methods. Observations in the near-infrared spectral range have shown themselves to be powerful for providing essential hints to the characterisation of the unified model ingredients because of the reduced optical depth of the obscuring material. Moreover, it is possible to trace this material through light scattered from the central engine’s closest environment, so that polarimetric observations are the ideal tool for distinguishing it from purely thermal and stellar emissions.
Results. Here we show strong evidence that there is an extended nuclear torus at the center of NGC 1068 thanks to new adaptive-optics-assisted polarimetric observations in the near-infrared. The orientation of the polarization vectors proves that there is a structured hourglass-shaped bicone and a compact elongated (20 × 60 pc) nuclear structure perpendicular to the bicone axis. The linearly polarized emission in the bicone is dominated by a centro-symmetric pattern, but the central compact region shows a clear deviation from the latter with linear polarization aligned perpendicular to the bicone axis.
Key words: galaxies: active / galaxies: Seyfert / techniques: polarimetric / techniques: high angular resolution
Figure 2 is available in electronic form at http://www.aanda.org
Data obtained with the SPHERE an instrument designed and built by a consortium consisting of IPAG (France), MPIA (Germany), LAM (France), LESIA (France), Laboratoire Lagrange (France), INAF – Osservatorio di Padova (Italy), Observatoire de Genève (Switzerland), ETH Zurich (Switzerland), NOVA (Netherlands), ONERA (France), and ASTRON (Netherlands) in collaboration with ESO.
© ESO, 2015