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Astron. Astrophys. 343, 682-690 (1999)

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The effect of an attenuated continuum on the coronal line spectrum of NGC 1068 and the Circinus galaxy

L.S. Nazarova 1,2, P.T. O'Brien 1 and M.J. Ward 1

1 Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Leicester, University Road, Leicester, LE1 7RH, UK
2 Astronomical Society, Sternberg Astronomical Institute, Universitetskij prosp.13, Moscow, 119899, Russia

Received 11 June 1998 / Accepted 4 January 1999


We present photoionization models of the optical and IR coronal line spectrum in NGC 1068 and the Circinus galaxy. The line fluxes have been calculated using (a) a non-thermal (nuclear) continuum source and (b) the non-thermal continuum plus a UV bump due to a stellar cluster. We take into account the effect of attenuation of these continua by gas with column density 1022 cm-2 located between the nucleus and the coronal line region. The calculated coronal line ratios are in a good agreement with those observed in NGC 1068 for a model in which about 40% of the line emission comes from gas illuminated by unattenuated, non-thermal continuum, and about 60% from gas illuminated by attenuated, non-thermal continuum. The electron density of the coronal line emitting gas in NGC 1068 is found to be 104 cm-3. In the Circinus galaxy the coronal line emission comes from gas with electron density 103 cm-3 illuminated entirely by attenuated, non-thermal continuum. The derived ionization parameters for both coronal line regions are very similar, but the different densities imply a higher ionizing photon flux in NGC 1068, consistent with the higher observed excitation state of the line emitting gas in that galaxy. A possible geometry of the coronal line region of both galaxies is discussed, in which the distribution of the attenuating gas may be strongly affected by the relative strength of the nuclear radio-jet. The stronger radio-jet in NGC 1068 may have cleared a channel through the NLR allowing some unattenuated nuclear continuum to illuminate part of the coronal line region.

Key words: galaxies: active – galaxies: individual: Circinus galaxy – galaxies: individual: NGC 1068 – galaxies: quasars: emission lines – ultraviolet: galaxies

Send offprint requests to: P.T. O'Brien (pto@star.le.ac.uk)

© European Southern Observatory (ESO) 1999

Online publication: March 1, 1999