Anomalous Silicate Dust Emission in the Type 1 Liner Nucleus of M81
We report the detection and successful modeling of the unusual 9.7μm Si-O stretching silicate emission feature in the type 1 (i.e., face-on) LINER nucleus of M81. Using the Infrared Spectrograph (IRS) instrument on Spitzer, we determine the feature in the central 230 pc of M81 to be in strong emission, with a peak at ∼10.5μm. This feature is strikingly different in character from the absorption feature of the galactic interstellar medium, and from the silicate absorption or weak emission features typical of galaxies with active star formation. We successfully model the high signal-to-noise ratio IRS spectra with porous silicate dust using laboratory-acquired mineral spectra. We find that the most probable fit uses micron-sized, porous grains of amorphous silicate and amorphous carbon. In addition to silicate dust, there is weak polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) emission present (particularly at 11.3μm, arising from the C-H out-of-plane bending vibration of relatively large PAHs of ∼500-1000 C atoms) whose character reflects the low-excitation active galactic nucleus environment, with some evidence that small PAHs of ∼100-200 C atoms (responsible for the 7.7μm C-C stretching band) in the immediate vicinity of the nucleus have been preferentially destroyed. Analysis of the infrared fine structure lines confirms the LINER character of the M81 nucleus. Four of the infrared H2 rotational lines are detected and fit to an excitation temperature of T ∼ 800 K. Spectral maps of the central 230 pc in the [Ne ii] 12.8μm line, the H2 17μm line, and the 11.3μm PAH C-H bending feature reveal arc- or spiral-like structures extending from the core. We also report on epochal photometric and spectroscopic observations of M81, whose nuclear intensity varies in time across the spectrum due to what is thought to be inefficient, sub-Eddington accretion onto its central black hole. We find that, contrary to the implications of earlier photometry, the nucleus has not varied over a period of two years at these infrared wavelengths to a precision of about 1%.
The Astrophysical Journal, 716:490-503, 2010 June 10