A black-hole mass measurement …

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… from molecular gas kinematics in NGC4526

The black hole at NGC4526's centre is believed to have the mass of six billion trillion trillion family cars

The black hole at NGC4526’s centre is believed to have the mass of six billion trillion trillion family cars

Timothy A. Davis, Martin Bureau, Michele Cappellari, Marc Sarzi & Leo Blitz
The masses of the supermassive black holes found in galaxy bulges are correlated with a multitude of galaxy properties, leading to suggestions that galaxies and black holes may evolve together.

The number of reliably measured black-hole masses is small, and the number of methods for measuring them is limited, holding back attempts to understand this co-evolution.

Directly measuring black-hole masses is currently possible with stellar kinematics (in early-type galaxies), ionized-gas kinematics (in some spiral and early-type galaxies) and in rare objects that have central maser emission.

Here we report that by modelling the effect of a black hole on the kinematics of molecular gas it is possible to fit interferometric observations of CO emission and thereby accurately estimate black-hole masses. We study the dynamics of the gas in the early-type galaxy NGC 4526, and obtain a best fit that requires the presence of a central dark object of   × 108 solar masses (3σ confidence limit).

With the next-generation millimetre-wavelength interferometers these observations could be reproduced in galaxies out to 75 megaparsecs in less than 5 hours of observing time.

The use of molecular gas as a kinematic tracer should thus allow one to estimate black-hole masses in hundreds of galaxies in the local Universe, many more than are accessible with current techniques.

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Written by physicsgg

January 31, 2013 at 10:30 am


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