ARRA: Collaborative Proposal: Resolved Mid-IR Observations & Modeling of AGN and their Hosts

  • Elitzur, Moshe (PI)

Grants and Contracts Details


1.0 Introduction The ftzeling of black holes that occurs inactive galactic nuclei (AGN) is fundamental to the evolution of galaxies. AGN themselves are largely explained in the context of a unified theory, by which a geometrically and optically thick torus of gas and dust Obscures the AGN central engine from some lines of sight (LOS). However, the exact properties of the tons remain uncertain, and imaging the tons remains extremely difficult, accomplished for at most three objects. Specifically, we plan to address the key questions of: (a) What is the nature of the torus material and its connection with the ISM of the host galaxy, (b) How do the properties, such as, geometiy and optical depth, of the torus depend on the AGN luminosity andlor activity class, (c) Do the dust properties change with the AGN luminosity/type, and (d) What is the role of nuclear (< 100 pc) starbursts in feeding andThr obscuring AGNs? Accounting for the immediate environment of the black hole is essential to solve fundamental problems that require quantifying its growth over cosmic time and obtaining an accurate census of black holes. A detailed understanding of the tons and AGN activity will allow us to understand the fueling process and its relationship to (or even creation of) the tons, the interaction with the host galaxy, and dust chemistry in other galaxies. The next generation of ground- and space-based telescopes will probe the distant universe, where the relationship between the host galaxy, black hole, and AGN evolution may be evident. Hence it is cncial to understand our local universe in detail in order to interpret high-redshift observations that are far more challenging in both faintness and spatial resolution. While JWST will be orders of magnitude more sensitive than Spitzer and GTC, its angular resolution will be -40% worse than GTC, and it cannot make polarimetric observations. The observational and theoretical work we propose is essential to developing and refining the models that will allow us to fully exploit JWST data and place it in context with the multi-waveband properties of AGN. Observations at mid-JR (MIR, 7-26gm) wavelengths are essential because the tons intercepts a substantial amount of flux from the central engine that must be re-radiated, with a peak in the MIR. MR facilities such as the 8m Gemini Observatories with the UT-built T-ReCS and ATC-built Michelle, and the soon to be commissioned UT-built CanariCam on the lO.4m Gran Telescopio CANARIAS (GTC) telescope afford the possibility to probe the centers of AGN at ?vHR wavelengths with unprecedented spatial resolution. New models are making significant progress in accounting for the MIR emission, through complex computations of a `clumpy' distribution of dust in the torus. This proposal pools the diverse skills of an international group of instnment builders, observers and modelers into one scientific team (the CanariCam AGN science team or CCST:AGN) to produce a coherent picture of the structure of AGN using observations primarily from CanariCam, T-ReCS and Michelle, and state of the art modeling. With this proposal, we will leverage -110 hours of guaranteed time (GT) on the GTC and an additional 200-321 hours of already allocated GTC time - an unprecedented time commitment for a lOm class telescope, devoted to tackling one of the main outstanding problems in AGN research. We will test AGN grand unification, by which activity governs the tons properties and the galaxies' observable characteristics across the electromagnetic spectrum.
Effective start/end date9/15/098/31/13


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