Polar Dust, Nuclear Obscuration, and IR SED Diversity in Type-1 AGNs

Jianwei Lyu, George H. Rieke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Scopus citations


Despite the hypothesized similar face-on viewing angles, the infrared emission of type-1 active galactic nuclei (AGNs) has diverse spectral energy distribution (SED) shapes that deviate substantially from the well-characterized quasar templates. Motivated by the commonly seen UV-optical obscuration and the discovery of parsec-scale mid-IR polar dust emission in some nearby AGNs, we develop semi-empirical SED libraries for reddened type-1 AGNs built on quasar intrinsic templates, assuming low-level extinction caused by an extended distribution of large dust grains. We demonstrate that this model can reproduce the nuclear UV to IR SED and the strong mid-IR polar dust emission of NGC 3783, the type-1 AGN with the most relevant and robust observational constraints. In addition, we compile 64 low-z Seyfert-1 nuclei with negligible mid-IR star formation contamination and satisfactorily fit the individual IR SEDs as well as the composite UV to mid-IR composite SEDs. Given the success of these fits, we characterize the possible infrared SED of AGN polar dust emission and utilize a simple but effective strategy to infer its prevalence among type-1 AGNs. The SEDs of high-z peculiar AGNs, including the extremely red quasars, mid-IR warm-excess AGNs, and hot dust-obscured galaxies, can be also reproduced by our model. These results indicate that the IR SEDs of most AGNs, regardless of redshift or luminosity, arise from similar circumnuclear torus properties but differ mainly due to the optical depths of extended obscuring dust components.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number92
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Oct 20 2018


  • dust, extinction
  • galaxies: Seyfert
  • galaxies: active
  • infrared: galaxies
  • quasars: general

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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