Volume 448, Number 3, March IV 2006
|Page(s)||921 - 953|
|Published online||03 March 2006|
The supermassive black hole in Centaurus A: a benchmark for gas kinematical measurements
INAF - Osservatorio Astrofisico di Arcetri Largo E. Fermi 5, 50125 Firenze, Italy e-mail: email@example.com
2 Dipartimento di Astronomia e Scienza dello Spazio, Università degli Studi di Firenze Largo E. Fermi 2, 50125 Firenze, Italy e-mail: [guia;pacini]@arcetri.astro.it
3 Department of Physics, Rochester Institute of Technology, 85 Lomb Memorial Drive, Rochester, NY 14623, USA e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
4 Department of Physical Sciences, University of Hertfordshire, Hatfield AL10 9AB, UK
5 INAF - Osservatorio Astronomico di Torino, Strada Osservatorio 20, 10025 Pino Torinese, Italy e-mail: email@example.com
6 Space Telescope Science Institute 3700 San Martin Drive, Baltimore, MD 21218, USA e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org,email@example.com
7 Affiliated with ESA's Space Telescope Division
8 Associated Universities, Inc. Suite 730 1400 16th Street, NW Washington, DC 20036, USA e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Accepted: 12 November 2005
We present new HST Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph observations of the nearby radio galaxy NGC 5128 (Centaurus A). The bright emission line with longest wavelength accessible from HST, , was used to study the kinematics of the ionized gas in the nuclear region with a 01 spatial resolution. The STIS data were analized in conjunction with the ground-based near-infrared Very Large Telescope ISAAC spectra used by Marconi et al. (2001, ApJ, 549, 915) to infer the presence of a supermassive black hole and measure its mass. The two sets of data have spatial resolutions differing by almost a factor of five but provide independent and consistent measures of the BH mass, which are in agreement with our previous estimate based on the ISAAC data alone. The gas kinematical analysis provides a mass of for an assumed disk inclination of or for , the largest i value allowed by the data. We performed a detailed analysis of the effects on MBH of the intrinsic surface brightness distribution of the emission line, a crucial ingredient in the gas kinematical analysis. We estimate that the associated systematic errors are no larger than 0.08 in , comparable with statistical errors and indicating that the method is robust. However, the intrinsic surface brightness distribution has a large impact on the value of the gas velocity dispersion. A mismatch between the observed and model velocity dispersion is not necessarily an indication of non-circular motions or kinematically hot gas, but is as easily due to an inaccurate computation arising from too course a model grid, or the adoption of an intrinsic brightness distribution which is too smooth. The observed velocity dispersion in our spectra can be matched with a circularly rotating disk and also the observed line profiles and the higher order moments in the Hermite expansion of the line profiles, h3 and h4, are consistent with emission from such a disk. To our knowledge, Centaurus A is the first external galaxy for which reliable BH mass measurements from gas and stellar dynamics are available and, as in the case of the Galactic Center, the MBH gas kinematical estimate is in good agreement with that from stellar dynamics. The BH mass in Centaurus A is in excellent agreement with the correlation with infrared luminosity and mass of the host spheroid but is a factor ∼ above the one with the stellar velocity dispersion. But this disagreement is not large if one takes into account the intrinsic scatter of the correlation. Finally, the high HST spatial resolution allows us to constrain the size of any cluster of dark objects alternative to a BH to (). Thus Centaurus A ranks among the best cases for supermassive Black Holes in galactic nuclei.
Key words: black hole physics / line: profiles / galaxies: individual: NGC 5128 / galaxies: kinematics and dynamics / galaxies: nuclei
© ESO, 2006
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