Determination of masses of the central black holes in NGC 524 and 2549 using laser guide star adaptive optics

Davor Krajnović*, Richard M. McDermid, Michele Cappellari, Roger L. Davies

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

64 Citations (Scopus)


We present observations of early-type galaxies NGC 524 and 2549 with laser guide star adaptive optics (LGS AO) obtained at GEMINI North telescope using the Near-infrared Integral Field Spectrograph (NIFS) integral field unit (IFU) in the K band. The purpose of these observations is to determine high spatial resolution stellar kinematics within the nuclei of these galaxies and, in combination with previously obtained large-scale observations with the SAURON IFU, to determine the masses (M) of the supermassive black holes (SMBH). The targeted galaxies were chosen to have central light profiles showing a core (NGC 524) and a cusp (NGC 2549), to probe the feasibility of using the galaxy centre as the natural guide source required for LGS AO. We employ an innovative technique where the focus compensation due to the changing distance to the sodium layer is made 'open loop', allowing the extended galaxy nucleus to be used only for tip-tilt correction. The data have spatial resolution of 0.23 and 0.17 arcsec full-width at half maximum (FWHM), where at least ∼40 per cent of flux comes within 0.2, showing that high quality LGS AO observations of these objects are possible. The achieved signal-to-noise ratio (S/N ∼ 50) is sufficiently high to reliably determine the shape of the line-of-sight velocity distribution. We construct axisymmetric three-integral dynamical models which are constrained with both the NIFS and SAURON data. The best-fitting models yield M = (8.3+2.7 -1.3) × 108 M and (M/L)I = 5.8 ± 0.4 for NGC 524 and M = (1.4 +0.2-1.3) × 107 M and (M/L)R = 4.7 ± 0.2 for NGC 2549 (all errors are at the 3σ level). We demonstrate that the wide-field SAURON data play a crucial role in the M/L determination increasing the accuracy of M/L by a factor of at least 5, and constraining the upper limits on black hole masses. The NIFS data are crucial in constraining the lower limits of M and in combination with the large-scale data reducing the uncertainty by a factor of 2 or more. We find that the orbital structure of NGC 524 shows significant tangential anisotropy, while at larger radii both galaxies are consistent with having almost perfectly oblate velocity ellipsoids. Tangential anisotropy in NGC 524 coincides with the size of SMBH sphere of influence and the core region in the light profile. This agrees with predictions from numerical simulations where core profiles are the result of SMBH binaries evacuating the centre nuclear regions following a galaxy merger. However, being a disc dominated fast rotating galaxy, NGC 524 has probably undergone through a more complex evolution. We test the accuracy to which M can be measured using seeings obtained from typical LGS AO observations, and conclude that for a typical conditions and M the expected uncertainty is of the order of 50 per cent.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1839-1857
Number of pages19
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2009
Externally publishedYes


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