Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Revealing a mini-supermassive black hole

Date:
October 24, 2012
Source:
Chandra X-ray Observatory
Summary:
One of the lowest mass supermassive black holes ever observed in the middle of a galaxy has now been identified. The host galaxy is of a type not expected to harbor supermassive black holes, suggesting that this black hole, while related to its supermassive cousins, may have a different origin.

One of the lowest mass black holes ever observed in the middle of a galaxy has been identified. The black hole is located in the middle of the spiral galaxy NGC 4178, shown in this Sloan Digital Sky Survey image.
Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/George Mason Univ/N.Secrest et al; Optical: SDSS

One of the lowest mass supermassive black holes ever observed in the middle of a galaxy has been identified, thanks to NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and several other observatories. The host galaxy is of a type not expected to harbor supermassive black holes, suggesting that this black hole, while related to its supermassive cousins, may have a different origin.

Related Articles


The black hole is located in the middle of the spiral galaxy NGC 4178, shown in this image from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. The inset shows an X-ray source at the position of the black hole, in the center of a Chandra image. An analysis of the Chandra data, along with infrared data from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope and radio data from the NSF's Very Large Array suggests that the black hole is near the extreme low-mass end of the supermassive black hole range.

These results were published in the July 1, 2012 issue of The Astrophysical Journal by Nathan Secrest, from George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, and collaborators.

The properties of the X-ray source, including its brightness and spectrum -- the amount of X-rays at different wavelengths -- and its brightness at infrared wavelengths, suggest that a black hole in the center of NGC 4178 is rapidly pulling in material from its surroundings. The same data also suggest that light generated by this infalling material is heavily absorbed by gas and dust surrounding the black hole.

A known relationship between the mass of a black hole and the amount of X-rays and radio waves it generates was used to estimate the mass of the black hole. This method gives a black hole mass estimate of less than about 200,000 times that of the sun. This agrees with mass estimates from several other methods employed by the authors, and is lower than the typical values for supermassive black holes of millions to billions of times the mass of the sun.

NGC 4178 is a spiral galaxy located about 55 million light years from Earth. It does not contain a bright central concentration, or bulge, of stars in its center. Besides NGC 4178, four other galaxies without bulges are currently thought to contain supermassive black holes. Of these four black holes, two have masses that may be close to that of the black hole in NGC 4178. XMM-Newton observations of an X-ray source discovered by Chandra in the center of the galaxy NGC 4561 indicate that the mass of this black hole is greater than 20,000 times the mass of the sun, but the mass could be substantially higher if the black hole is pulling in material slowly, causing it to generate less X-ray emission. A paper describing these results was published in the October 1st, 2012 issue of The Astrophysical Journal by Araya Salvo and collaborators.

The mass of the black hole in the galaxy NGC 4395 is estimated to be about 360,000 times the mass of the sun, as published by Peterson and collaborators in the October 20, 2005 issue of the Astrophysical Journal.

Previously, astronomers have found that observations of a large number of galaxies are consistent with a close correlation between the mass of a supermassive black hole and the mass of the bulge of its host galaxy. Theoretical models developed to explain these results invoke mergers of galaxies, and predict that galaxies without bulges are unlikely to host supermassive black holes. The results found for NGC 4178 and the four other galaxies mentioned run counter to these predictions, and may suggest that more than one mechanism is at work in forming supermassive black holes.

Three other X-ray sources were found in the Chandra image. If they are located in NGC 4178 they are likely to be binary systems containing a black hole or neutron star. The brightest of the three sources may be an intermediate-mass black hole with a mass that is about 6,000 times that of the sun.

The co-authors of the paper describing these results are Shobita Satyapal, and Mario Gliozzi, from George Mason University; Teddy Cheung, from the National Academy of Science in Washington DC; Anil Seth, from the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, UT, and Torsten Boeker from ESA/ESTEC in the Netherlands.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Chandra X-ray Observatory. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Nathan Secrest, Shobita Satyapal, Mario Gliozzi, C. C. Cheung, Anil Seth, Torsten Boeker. The Chandra View of NGC 4178: The Lowest Mass Black Hole in a Bulgeless Disk Galaxy? The Astrophysical Journal, 2012 [link]

Cite This Page:

Chandra X-ray Observatory. "Revealing a mini-supermassive black hole." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 24 October 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/10/121024150904.htm>.
Chandra X-ray Observatory. (2012, October 24). Revealing a mini-supermassive black hole. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/10/121024150904.htm
Chandra X-ray Observatory. "Revealing a mini-supermassive black hole." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/10/121024150904.htm (accessed December 21, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Space & Time News

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Spokesman: 'NORAD Ready to Track Santa'

Spokesman: 'NORAD Ready to Track Santa'

AP (Dec. 19, 2014) — Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby said that NORAD is ready to track Santa Claus as he delivers gifts next week. Speaking tongue-in-cheek, he said if Santa drops anything off his sleigh, "we've got destroyers out there to pick them up." (Dec. 19) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
NASA's Planet-Finding Kepler Mission Isn't Over After All

NASA's Planet-Finding Kepler Mission Isn't Over After All

Newsy (Dec. 18, 2014) — More than a year after NASA declared the Kepler spacecraft broken beyond repair, scientists have figured out how to continue getting useful data. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Rover Finds More Clues About Possible Life On Mars

Rover Finds More Clues About Possible Life On Mars

Newsy (Dec. 17, 2014) — NASA's Curiosity rover detected methane on Mars and organic compounds on the surface, but it doesn't quite prove there was life ... yet. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Evidence of Life on Mars? NASA Rover Finds Methane, Organic Chemicals

Evidence of Life on Mars? NASA Rover Finds Methane, Organic Chemicals

Reuters - US Online Video (Dec. 16, 2014) — NASA's Mars Curiosity rover finds methane in the Martian atmosphere and organic chemicals in the planet's soil, the latest hint that Mars was once suitable for microbial life. Linda So reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins