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Proceedings Paper

Science of active galactic nuclei with the GTC and CanariCam
Author(s): Nancy A. Levenson; Christopher C. Packham; Almudena Alonso-Herrero; Itziar Aretxaga; Luis Colina; Tanio Díaz-Santos; Moshe Elitzur; Rachel E. Mason; Eric S. Perlman; James T. Radomski; Patrick F. Roche; José Miguel Rodríguez Espinosa; Stuart Young; Charles M. Telesco
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Paper Abstract

CanariCam is the facility mid-infrared (MIR) instrument for the Gran Telescopio Canarias (GTC), a 10.4m telescope at the Observatorio del Roque de los Muchachos on La Palma. One of the science drivers for CanariCam is the study of active galactic nuclei (AGN). We will exploit the instrument's high sensitivity in imaging, spectroscopy, and polarimetry modes to answer fundamental questions of AGN and their host galaxies. Dust in the nucleus of an active galaxy reprocesses the intrinsic radiation of the central engine to emerge in the MIR. Current work demonstrates that the hot dust immediately associated with the AGN, which blocks direct views of the AGN from some lines of sight, is confined to small (parsec) scales. Thus, high spatial resolution is essential to probe the "torus" of unified AGN models separate from the host galaxy. CanariCam provides a 0.08" pixel scale for Nyquist sampling the diffraction-limited point spread function at 8μm, and narrow (0.2") spectroscopy slits (with R=120-1300). New observations with the GTC/CanariCam will provide key constraints on the physical conditions in the clumpy torus, and we will sensitively determine AGN obscuration as a function of nuclear activity. We will therefore address the fueling process and its relationship to the torus, the interaction with the host galaxy, and dust chemistry. These data will be essential preparation for the next generation of telescopes that will observe the distant universe directly to explore galaxy and black hole formation and evolution, and the GTC/CanariCam system uniquely provides multiple modes to probe AGN.

Paper Details

Date Published: 9 July 2008
PDF: 9 pages
Proc. SPIE 7014, Ground-based and Airborne Instrumentation for Astronomy II, 70142I (9 July 2008); doi: 10.1117/12.790123
Show Author Affiliations
Nancy A. Levenson, Univ. of Kentucky (United States)
Christopher C. Packham, Univ. of Florida (United States)
Almudena Alonso-Herrero, Instituto de Estructura de la Materia, CSIC (Spain)
Itziar Aretxaga, Instituto Nacional de Astrofísica, Óptica y Electrónica (Mexico)
Luis Colina, Instituto de Estructura de la Materia, CSIC (Spain)
Tanio Díaz-Santos, Instituto de Estructura de la Materia, CSIC (Spain)
Moshe Elitzur, Univ. of Kentucky (United States)
Rachel E. Mason, Gemini Observatory, Northern Operations Ctr. (United States)
Eric S. Perlman, Florida Institute of Technology (United States)
James T. Radomski, Gemini South Observatory (Chile)
Patrick F. Roche, Oxford Univ. (United Kingdom)
José Miguel Rodríguez Espinosa, Instituto de Astrofisica de Canarias (Spain)
Stuart Young, Rochester Institute of Technology (United States)
Charles M. Telesco, Univ. of Florida (United States)


Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 7014:
Ground-based and Airborne Instrumentation for Astronomy II
Ian S. McLean; Mark M. Casali, Editor(s)

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