Journal Article

The mass of the black hole in Centaurus A from SINFONI AO-assisted integral-field observations of stellar kinematics

Michele Cappellari, N. Neumayer, J. Reunanen, P. P. Van Der Werf, P. T. De Zeeuw and H.-W. Rix

in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

Published on behalf of The Royal Astronomical Society

Volume 394, issue 2, pages 660-674
Published in print April 2009 | ISSN: 0035-8711
Published online March 2009 | e-ISSN: 1365-2966 | DOI:
The mass of the black hole in Centaurus A from SINFONI AO-assisted integral-field observations of stellar kinematics

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We present a determination of the mass of the supermassive black hole (BH) and the nuclear stellar orbital distribution of the elliptical galaxy Centaurus A (Cen A) (NGC 5128) using high-resolution integral-field observations of the stellar kinematics. The observations were obtained with SINFONI (Spectrograph for INtegral Field Observations in the Near Infrared) at the European Southern Observatory Very Large Telescope in the near-infrared (IR) (K band), using adaptive optics (AO) to correct for the blurring effect of the Earth's atmosphere. The data have a spatial resolution of 0.17 arcsec full width at half-maximum and high signal-to-noise ratios (S/N) ≳ 80 per spectral pixel so that the shape of the stellar line-of-sight velocity distribution can be reliably extracted. We detect clear low-level stellar rotation, which is counter-rotating with respect to the gas. We fit axisymmetric three-integral dynamical models to the data to determine the best-fitting values for the BH mass MBH= (5.5 ± 3.0) × 107 M (3σ errors) and (M/L)K= (0.65 ± 0.15) in solar units. These values are in excellent agreement with previous determinations from the gas kinematics, and in particular with our own published value, extracted from the same data. This provides one of the cleanest gas versus stars comparisons of MBH determination, due to the use of integral-field data for both dynamical tracers and due to a very well-resolved BH sphere of influence RBH≈ 0.70 arcsec. We derive an accurate profile of the orbital anisotropy, and carefully test its reliability using spherical Jeans models with radially varying anisotropy. We find an increase in the tangential anisotropy close to the BH, but the spatial extent of this effect seems restricted to the size of RBH instead of that of Rb≈ 3.9 arcsec of the core in the surface brightness profile, contrary to detailed predictions of current simulations of the binary BH scouring mechanism. More realistic simulations would be required to draw conclusions from this observation.

Keywords: black hole physics; instrumentation: adaptive optics; galaxies: elliptical and lenticular, cD; galaxies: individual: NGC 5128; galaxies: kinematics and dynamics

Journal Article.  10783 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Astronomy and Astrophysics

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