Volume 648, April 2021
|Number of page(s)||18|
|Published online||09 April 2021|
High angular resolution polarimetric imaging of the nucleus of NGC 1068
Disentangling the polarising mechanisms
LESIA, Observatoire de Paris, PSL Research University, CNRS, Sorbonne Universités, UPMC Univ. Paris 06, Univ. Paris Diderot, Sorbonne Paris Cité, 5 Place Jules Janssen, 92190 Meudon, France
2 SOFIA Science Center, USRA, NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA 94035, USA
3 Université de Strasbourg, CNRS, Observatoire Astronomique de Strasbourg, UMR 7550, 67000 Strasbourg, France
4 Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics, Australian National University, Canberra, ACT 2611, Australia
5 Université Côte d’Azur, Observatoire de la Côte d’Azur, CNRS, Laboratoire Lagrange, Bd de l’Observatoire, CS 34229, 06304 Nice Cedex 4, France
6 ETH Zurich, Institute for Particle Physics and Astrophysics, Wolfgang-Pauli-Strasse 27, 8093 Zurich, Switzerland
7 Institute of Astronomy, KU Leuven, Celestijnenlaan 200D B2401, 3001 Leuven, Belgium
8 Univ. Grenoble Alpes, CNRS, IPAG, 38000 Grenoble, France
9 Aix Marseille Université, CNRS, CNES, LAM, Marseille, France
10 NOVA Optical Infrared Instrumentation Group, Oude Hoogeveensedijk 4, 7991 PD Dwingeloo, The Netherlands
11 DOTA, ONERA, Université Paris Saclay, 91123 Palaiseau, France
Accepted: 16 December 2020
Context. Polarisation is a decisive method to study the inner region of active galactic nuclei (AGNs) since, unlike classical imaging, it is not affected by contrast issues. When coupled with high angular resolution (HAR), polarisation can help to disentangle the location of the different polarising mechanisms and then give insight into the physics taking place in the core of AGNs.
Aims. We obtained a new data set of HAR polarimetric images of the archetypal Seyfert 2 nucleus of NGC 1068 observed with SPHERE/VLT. We aim in this paper to present the polarisation maps and to spatially separate the location of the polarising mechanisms, thereby deriving constraints on the organisation of the dust material in the inner region of this AGN.
Methods. With four new narrow-band images between the visible and the near-infrared combined with older broad-band observations, we studied the wavelength dependence of the polarisation properties from 0.7 to 2.2 μm of three selected regions within the inner 2″ surrounding the central engine. We then compared these measurements to radiative transfer simulations of scattering and dichroic absorption processes, using the Monte Carlo code MontAGN.
Results. We establish a detailed table of the relative importance of the polarising mechanism as a function of aperture and wavelength. We are able to separate the dominant polarising mechanisms in the three regions of the ionisation cone, the extended envelope of the torus, and the very central bright source of the AGN. Thus, we estimate the contribution of the different polarisation mechanisms to the observed polarisation flux in these regions. Dichroic absorption is estimated to be responsible for about 99% of the polarised flux coming from the photo-centre. However, this contribution would only be restricted to this location because the double-scattering process would be the most important contributor to polarisation in the equatorial plane of the AGN and single scattering is dominant in the polar outflow bi-cone.
Conclusions. Even though results are in good agreement with larger apertures measurements, the variety of situations with different mechanisms at play highlights the importance of spatial resolution for the interpretation of polarisation measurements. We also refine the estimation of the integrated optical depth in the visible of the obscuring structure to a range of 20−100, constraining the geometry of the inner region of this AGN.
Key words: galaxies: Seyfert / galaxies: individual: NGC 1068 / techniques: high angular resolution / techniques: polarimetric / methods: numerical / methods: observational
© L. Grosset et al. 2021
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