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Published May 1, 1978 | Published
Journal Article Open

Evidence for a supermassive object in the nucleus of the galaxy M87 from SIT and CCD area photometry


Two-dimensional SIT and CCD detectors have been used to measure the surface brightness of the peculiar elliptical radio galaxy M87. Measurements were made in three broad-band colors (B, V, and R) to a distance of 80" from the nucleus, with 1" spatial resolution and photometric accuracy of the order of 1%. The data are given in some detail and are compared with earlier photographic results. The most obvious feature of the data is a bright, barely resolved central luminosity spike, which is not seen in similar data on other nearby normal ellipticals. Also, attempts to fit isothermal or King models away from the nuclear spike show additional excess luminosity in the central regions of the galaxy (r < 10"), which cannot be fitted by such a model. A model-independent dynamical analysis, using the photometric data combined with spectrographic results by Sargent et al., shows that the nucleus of M87 contains a compact mass of low luminosity, with M = 5 x 10^9 M_⊙, r < 100 pc, and M/ℒ > 60. All of the existing data is well fitted by a King model containing a central black hole of mass M = 3 x 10^9 M_⊙ and a point luminosity source. While such a model is not uniquely required by the data, it is perhaps the most plausible of several possible models considered. At present, M87 is probably the best case for a hypothetical massive black hole in a galaxy nucleus.

Additional Information

© 1978 American Astronomical Society. Received 1977 June 10; accepted 1977 October 7. We thank John Bahcall, Roger Blandford, Peter Goldreich, Jim Gunn, Vincent Icke, John Kormendy, Russell Redman, Martin Rees, Scott Tremaine, and Gerard de Vaucouleurs for discussions and valuable assistance. We also thank Wallace Sargent, Alec Boksenberg, Keith Shortridge, Roger Lynds, and Fred Hartwick for the close cooperation involved in analyzing the M87 data presented in this and the accompanying paper. This work was supported in part by the National Science Foundation, under grant MPS 75-16327 to the Carnegie Institution of Washington.

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Published - 1978ApJ___221__721Y.pdf


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