We report results from HST/NICMOS 2 micron imaging polarimetry of the central region of Centaurus A. In the vicinity of the nucleus we observe a complex polarization structure which we explain by a combination of scattering of nuclear light and dichroic polarization associated with the dust lane. The scattered nuclear radiation is found in an angular region which extends over ~ 70 degrees and thus it does not originate from a highly collimated beam, but is associated with more omni-directional nuclear illumination. These observations also show the presence of an unresolved, highly polarized (P = 11.1 %) nuclear source whose polarization angle PA = 148.2 degrees is perpendicular to the jet axis. We set an upper limit of 0.04'' (~0.8 pc) to its extent. The observed nuclear polarization is naturally accounted for if we are observing scattered light from an otherwise obscured nucleus provided that both the scattering region and the occulting torus are extremely compact, with an outer radius of less than ~ 1 pc. Alternatively, we might be directly seeing the infrared counterpart of the radio core, similar to those found in other low luminosity radio-galaxies observed with HST. We discuss these results in the framework of the FRI / BL Lac unifying model. (Refer to PDF file for exact formulas).

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Also archived in: arXiv:astro-ph/0007435 v1 28 Jul 2000 Based on observations with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, obtained at the Space Telescope Science Institute, which is operated by AURA, Inc., under NASA contract NAS 5-26555 and by Space Telescope Science Institute grant GO-3594.01-91A.ISSN:1538-4357 Note: imported from RIT’s Digital Media Library running on DSpace to RIT Scholar Works in February 2014.

Document Type


Department, Program, or Center

School of Physics and Astronomy (COS)


RIT – Main Campus