The misdirected central engine of the hyperluminous infrared galaxy and type 2 QSO IRAS P09104 + 4109

Dean C. Hines, Gary D. Schmidt, Beverley J. Wills, Paul S. Smith, Louis G. Sowinski

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37 Scopus citations


Hubble Space Telescope Wide-Field Planetary Camera 2 imaging polarimetry of the hyperluminous infrared galaxy (and misdirected QSO) IRAS P09104 + 4109 reveals a highly polarized (p ≈ 20%) giant (∼ 5 kpc) bipolar reflection nebula centered on the nucleus. This, together with our previous detection of broad, polarixed Mg II and newly detected broad, polarized Balmer emission lines in our ground-based spectropolarimetry, confirms that the lobes of the nebula are dominated by scattered light from the misdirected QSO and that the object would be indistinguishable from typical luminous QSOs if viewed from either pole. Comparison with previously published narrowband images in the light of [O III] λλ4959, 5007 and [O II] λ3727 shows that the northern lobe of the nebula is coincident with the ionization cone, thus the same light that impinges on the scattering material also ionizes the narrow-line gas. The biconical structure and high polarization suggest that the central UV continuum source is surrounded by a dusty torus of half-opening angle ∼23° inclined ∼37° with respect to our line of sight. The radio structure of this radio-intermediate object also indicates a long-lived axisymmetry to the central power source, but with a different axis relative to the scattering bicone. We propose that this difference in axes betrays the history of a cataclysmic event that altered the fundamental orientation of the central engine - the bicone defines the current axis of the system. Radio-emitting plasma is beginning to move outward along this new axis, depriving the old radio lobes of power. IRAS P09104 + 4109 is the first radio-quiet/intermediate object of QSO luminosity and hidden broad lines to show direct evidence that the axisymmetric torus inferred to exist in many Seyfert nuclei is also present in objects of high luminosity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)145-156
Number of pages12
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1 PART 1
StatePublished - Feb 10 1999
Externally publishedYes


  • Galaxies: peculiar
  • Infrared: galaxies
  • Polarization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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