A sample of 196 AGNs and ULIRGs observed by the Infrared Spectrograph (IRS) on Spitzer is analyzed to study the distribution of the strength of the 9.7 μm silicate feature. Average spectra are derived for quasars, Seyfert 1 and Seyfert 2 AGNs, and ULIRGs. We find that quasars are characterized by silicate features in emission and Seyfert 1s equally by emission or weak absorption. Seyfert 2s are dominated by weak silicate absorption, and ULIRGs are characterized by strong silicate absorption (mean apparent optical depth about 1.5). Luminosity distributions show that luminosities at rest frame 5.5 μm are similar for the most luminous quasars and ULIRGs and are almost 105 times more luminous than the least luminous AGN in the sample. The distributions of spectral characteristics and luminosities are compared to those of optically faint infrared sources at z ~ 2 being discovered by the IRS, which are also characterized by strong silicate absorption. It is found that local ULIRGs are a similar population, although they have lower luminosities and somewhat stronger absorption compared to the high-redshift sources.

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Published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters, v. 655, no. 2, p. L77-L80.

© 2007. The American Astronomical Society. All rights reserved.

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