Molecular gas streamers feeding and obscuring the active nucleus of NGC 1068


We report the first direct observations of neutral, molecular gas streaming in the nucleus of NGC 1068 on scales of <30 pc using SINFONI near-infrared integral field spectroscopy. At a resolution of 0075, the flux map of 2.12 μm 1-0 S(1) molecular hydrogen emission around the nucleus in the central arcsec reveals two prominent linear structures leading to the active galactic nucleus from the north and south. The kinematics of the gas in these features are dominated by noncircular motions and indicate that material streams toward the nucleus on highly elliptical or parabolic trajectories, whose orientations are compatible with that of the disk plane of the galaxy. We interpret the data as evidence for fueling of gas to the central region. The radial transport rate from 30 pc to a few parsecs from the nucleus is 15 MȮ yr -1. One of the infalling clouds lies directly in front of the central engine. We interpret it as a tidally disrupted streamer that forms the optically thick outer part of an amorphous clumpy molecular/dusty structure which contributes to the nuclear obscuration. © 2009. The American Astronomical Society. All rights reserved..

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Astrophysical Journal