Dust clouds can explain puzzling features of active galactic nuclei

Many large galaxies have a bright central region called an active galactic nucleus, powered by matter spiraling into a supermassive black hole. Gas clouds around the AGN emit light at characteristic wavelengths, but the complexity and variability of these emissions has been a longstanding puzzle. A new study explains these and other puzzling features of active galactic nuclei as the result of small clouds of dust that can partially obscure the innermost regions of AGNs.

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