Nicmos polarimetry of "polar-scattered" seyfert 1 galaxies

D. Batcheldor, A. Robinson, D. J. Axon, S. Young, S. Quinn, J. E. Smith, J. Hough, D. M. Alexander

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The nuclei of Seyfert 1 galaxies exhibit a range of optical polarization characteristics that can be understood in terms of two scattering regions producing orthogonal polarizations: an extended polar scattering region (PSR) and a compact equatorial scattering region (ESR), located within the circum-nuclear torus. Here we present NICMOS 2.0 mu m imaging polarimetry of six "polar-scattered" Seyfert 1 (S1) galaxies, in which the PSR dominates the optical polarization. The unresolved nucleus (<0 ''.58) is significantly polarized in only three objects, but five of the six exhibit polarization in a 0 ''.58-1 ''.5 circum-nuclear annulus. In Fairall 51 and ESO 323-G077, the polarization position angle at 2 mu m (theta(2 mu m)) is consistent with the average for the optical spectrum(theta(nu)), implying that the nuclear polarization is dominated by polar scattering at both wavelengths. The same is probably true for NGC 3227. In both NGC 4593 and Mrk 766, there is a large difference between theta(2 mu m) and theta(nu) off-nucleus, where polar scattering is expected to dominate. This may be due to contamination by interstellar polarization in NGC 4593, but there is no clear explanation in the case of the strongly polarized Mrk 766. Lastly, in Mrk 1239, a large change (approximate to 60 degrees) in theta(2 mu m) between the nucleus and the annulus indicates that the unresolved nucleus and its immediate surroundings have different polarization states at 2 mu m, which we attribute to the ESR and PSR, respectively. A further implication is that the source of the scattered 2 mu m emission in the unresolved nucleus is the accretion disk, rather than torus hot dust emission.

Original languageEnglish
Article number90
JournalThe Astrophysical Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2011


  • galaxies: nuclei
  • galaxies: Seyfert
  • infrared: galaxies
  • polarization
  • scattering
  • techniques: polarimetric


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