For a PDF version of the article, click here.


Ryan C. Hickox 1 and David M. Alexander 2

1 Department of Physics & Astronomy, Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH 03755, USA
2 Centre for Extragalactic Astronomy, Department of Physics, Durham University, Durham, DH1 3LE, UK

Abstract: Active Galactic Nuclei (AGN) are powered by the accretion of material onto a supermassive black hole (SMBH), and are among the most luminous objects in the Universe. However, the huge radiative power of most AGN cannot be seen directly, as the accretion is “hidden” behind gas and dust that absorbs many of the characteristic observational signatures. This obscuration presents an important challenge for uncovering the complete AGN population and understanding the cosmic evolution of SMBHs. In this review we describe a broad range of multi-wavelength techniques that are currently employed to identify obscured AGN, and assess the reliability and completeness of each technique. We follow with a discussion of the demographics of obscured AGN activity, explore the nature and physical scales of the obscuring material, and assess the implications of obscured AGN for observational cosmology. We conclude with an outline of the prospects for future progress from both observations and theoretical models, and highlight some of the key outstanding questions.

Keywords : active galaxies, AGN surveys, black holes, central torus, mergers, obscuration

Table of Contents