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The Astrophysical Journal


We discuss Subaru and Spitzer Space Telescope imaging and spectroscopy of M87 in the mid-infrared (mid-IR) from 5 to 35 μm. These observations allow us to investigate mid-IR emission mechanisms in the core of M87 and to establish that the flaring, variable jet component HST-1 is not a major contributor to the mid-IR flux. The Spitzer data include a high signal-to-noise ratio 15-35 μm spectrum of the knot A/B complex in the jet, which is consistent with synchrotron emission. However, a synchrotron model cannot account for the observed nuclear spectrum, even when contributions from the jet, necessary due to the degrading of resolution with wavelength, are included. The Spitzer data show a clear excess in the spectrum of the nucleus at wavelengths longer than 25 μm, which we model as thermal emission from cool dust at a characteristic temperature of 55±10 K, with an IR luminosity ∼10³⁹ ergs sˉ¹ Given Spitzer's few arcsecond angular resolution, the dust seen in the nuclear spectrum could be located anywhere within ∼5″ (390 pc) of the nucleus. In any case, the ratio of active galactic nucleus (AGN) thermal to bolometric luminosity indicates that M87 does not contain the IR-bright torus that classical unified AGN schemes invoke. However, this result is consistent with theoretical predictions for low-luminosity AGNs.



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