Dalya Baron, Jonathan Stern, Dovi Poznanski, Hagai Netzer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The typical opticalUV continuum slopes observed in many type-1 active galactic nuclei (AGNs) are redder than expected from thin accretion disk (AD) models. A possible resolution to this conundrum is that many AGNs are reddened by dust along the line of sight. To explore this possibility, we stack 5000 SDSS AGNs with luminosity L ≈ 1045 erg s-1 and redshift z ∼ 0.4 in bins of optical continuum slope αopt and width of the broad Hβ emission line. We measure the equivalent width (EW) of the NaID absorption feature in each stacked spectrum. We find a linear relation between αopt and EW(NaID), such that EW(NaID) increases as αopt becomes redder. In the bin with the smallest Hβ width, objects with the bluest slopes, which are similar to AD predictions, are found to have EW(NaID) = 0, supporting the line of sight dust hypothesis. This conclusion is also supported by the dependence of the Hα/Hβ line ratio on aopt. The implied relationship between continuum slope and dust reddening is given by a ≈ - E 0.2 0.1 B V opt( ), and the implied reddening of a typical type-1 AGN with αopt = -0.5 is EB-V ≈ 0.08 mag. Photoionization calculations show that the line of sight dusty gas responsible for reddening is too ionized to produce the observed sodium features. Therefore, we argue that the sodium absorption arises in regions of the host ISM that are shielded from the AGN radiation along lines of sight to the stars, and the correlation with αopt arises since ISM columns along shielded and non-shielded sightlines are correlated. This scenario is supported by the similarity of the relation between EB-V and the Na I column implied by our results with the relation in the Milky Way found by previous studies.

Original languageEnglish
Article number8
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - 20 Nov 2016


  • dust
  • extinction
  • galaxies: active
  • quasars: absorption lines
  • quasars: general

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


Dive into the research topics of 'EVIDENCE THAT MOST TYPE-1 AGNs ARE REDDENED by DUST in the HOST ISM'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this