Polar Dust Emission in Quasar IR SEDs and Its Correlation with Narrow-line Regions

Jianwei Lyu, George H. Rieke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Polar dust has been found to play an important role in the mid-infrared emission of nearby Seyfert nuclei. If and how often polar dust exists among the quasar population is unknown due to the lack of spatially resolved observations. In this Letter, we report correlations between the prominence of active galactic nucleus (AGN) forbidden line emission (commonly associated with the narrow-line region) and the dust mid-IR energy output among the archetypal Palomar-Green quasar sample and other bright type-1 AGNs drawn from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, Spitzer, and Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) archives. The AGN mid-IR color differences traced by WISE W2 (∼4.6 μm)−W3 (∼12 μm) and W2 (∼4.6 μm)−W4 (∼22 μm), and near-IR to mid-IR spectral energy distributions (SEDs) constrained with the Two Micron All Sky Survey, WISE, and Spitzer data have clear trends with the relative strength of the forbidden line regions traced by the optical [O iii] and mid-IR [O iv] emission lines. These observations indicate that, where the lines are strong, a large fraction of the AGN emission at λ ≳ 5 μm comes from dust in the forbidden line regions. We find that the widely quoted universal AGN template is a result of averaging quasar SEDs with different levels of polar dust emission above the torus output and that the typical intrinsic IR SED of compact torus dust emission alone falls with increasing wavelength past 5 μm (in νF ν). In addition, the association of polar dust with the forbidden lines suggests an alternative to the receding torus hypothesis for the decrease in infrared output with increasing AGN luminosity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberL31
JournalAstrophysical Journal Letters
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 1 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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