THE M87 BLACK HOLE MASS FROM GAS-DYNAMICAL MODELS OF SPACE TELESCOPE IMAGING SPECTROGRAPH OBSERVATIONS**Based on observations made with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, obtained at the Space Telescope Science Institute, which is operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc., under NASA contract NAS 5-26555. These observations are associated with program GO-12162. Academic Article uri icon


  • The supermassive black hole of M87 is one of the most massive black holes known and has been the subject of several stellar and gas-dynamical mass measurements; however, the most recent revision to the stellar-dynamical black hole mass measurement is a factor of about two larger than the previous gas-dynamical determinations. Here, we apply comprehensive gas-dynamical models that include the propagation of emission-line profiles through the telescope and spectrograph optics to new Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph observations from the Hubble Space Telescope. Unlike the previous gas-dynamical studies of M87, we map out the complete kinematic structure of the emission-line disk within 40 pc from the nucleus, and find that a small amount of velocity dispersion internal to the gas disk is required to match the observed line widths. We examine a scenario in which the intrinsic velocity dispersion provides dynamical support to the disk, and determine that the inferred black hole mass increases by only 6%. Incorporating this effect into the error budget, we ultimately measure a mass of (68% confidence). Our gas-dynamical black hole mass continues to differ from the most recent stellar-dynamical mass by a factor of two, underscoring the need for carrying out more cross-checks between the two main black hole mass measurement methods. 2013. The American Astronomical Society. All rights reserved..

published proceedings

  • The Astrophysical Journal

altmetric score

  • 43.43

author list (cited authors)

  • Walsh, J. L., Barth, A. J., Ho, L. C., & Sarzi, M.

citation count

  • 258

complete list of authors

  • Walsh, Jonelle L||Barth, Aaron J||Ho, Luis C||Sarzi, Marc

publication date

  • June 2013