The principal properties of the tori of gas which surround Seyfert nuclei are discussed. The internal state of the clouds and their size distribution function are examined, and it is shown that the Jeans mass scale results in clouds which are individually sufficiently opaque to block out the nucleus, and that the balance of processes which controls their size distribution function also forces the covering factor to be of the order of or greater than unity. Where the gravitational potential is dominated by stars, cloud-cloud collisions keep the molecular clouds close to the equatorial plane. Stirring by stellar processes is never strong enough to compete with collisional losses. The position of the inner edge of the torus is determined by a balance between the inward flow of clouds and the rate at which the nuclear continuum can evaporate them.
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"The obscuring material is expected to be an approximately parsec-scale torus of molecular gas, whose structure was predicted by e.g. Krolik & Begelman . Despite many efforts to detect the expected molecular absorption or emission in a number of surveys, only in very few cases could molecular absorption be confirmed (e.g. "
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: One of the fundamental concepts in the unified scheme of AGN is that both Seyfert 1 and Seyfert 2 galaxies harbour supermassive nuclear engines blocked from direct view by an optically and geometrically thick torus. If the pressure is sufficiently high, the torus should mostly be molecular. Although molecular rings with diameters of a few hundred parsecs are common, the expected small scale tori (< 10 pc) have been difficult to detect. Searches for absorption lines of common molecules like CO and OH have mostly yielded non-detections. Before concluding that tori are not molecular, radiative excitation effects, in which coupling to the nonthermal continuum can suppress the opacity in the lowest transitions, deserve some attention and influence our selection of the most favourable transitions to observe. To explore these effects, we modified the search strategy by looking for the higher excited rotational states of OH and by selecting a sample of 31 Seyfert 2 galaxies which are known to have a high X-ray absorbing column. We present here the results of single dish observations of the transitions at 6031 MHz and 6035 MHz, yielding detections in five sources. We also present a spectral line VLBI observation carried out at 13.4 GHz towards the core of Cygnus A, yielding a tentative detection.
"The nucleus of the galaxy NGC 1068 hosts the archetypal example of an obscured AGN. The popular model for the obscuring medium is a parsec-scale, molecular disk surrounding the AGN , perhaps ultimately feeding an accretion disk  . One difficulty for observational tests has been that the location of the obscured, central ionising source is unknown. "
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Active galactic nuclei (AGN) are generally accepted to be powered by the release of gravitational energy in a compact accretion disk surrounding a massive black hole. Such disks are also necessary to collimate powerful radio jets seen in some AGN. The unifying classification schemes for AGN further propose that differences in their appearance can be attributed to the opacity of the accreting material, which may obstruct our view of the central region of some systems. The popular model for the obscuring medium is a parsec-scale disk of dense molecular gas, although evidence for such disks has been mostly indirect, as their angular size is much smaller than the resolution of conventional telescopes. Here we report the first direct images of a pc-scale disk of ionised gas within the nucleus of NGC 1068, the archetype of obscured AGN. The disk is viewed nearly edge-on, and individual clouds within the ionised disk are opaque to high-energy radiation, consistent with the unifying classification scheme. In projection, the disk and AGN axes align, from which we infer that the ionised gas disk traces the outer regions of the long-sought inner accretion disk. Comment: 14 pages, LaTeX, PSfig, to appear in Nature. also available at http://hethp.mpe-garching.mpg.de/Preprints