A Precision Measurement of the Mass of the Black Hole in NGC 3258 from High-resolution ALMA Observations of Its Circumnuclear Disk Academic Article uri icon


  • 2019. The American Astronomical Society. All rights reserved. We present 0.10 resolution Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) CO(2-1) imaging of the arcsecond-scale (r 150 pc) dusty molecular disk in the giant elliptical galaxy NGC 3258. The data provide unprecedented resolution of the cold gas disk kinematics within the dynamical sphere of influence of a supermassive black hole (BH), revealing a quasi-Keplerian central increase in projected rotation speed rising from 280 km s-1 at the disk's outer edge to >400 km s-1 near the disk center. We construct dynamical models for the rotating disk and fit beam-smeared model CO line profiles directly to the ALMA data cube. Our models incorporate both flat and tilted-ring disks that provide a better fit of the mildly warped structure in NGC 3258. We show that the exceptional angular resolution of the ALMA data makes it possible to infer the host galaxy's mass profile within r = 150 pc solely from the ALMA CO kinematics, without relying on optical or near-infrared imaging data to determine the stellar mass profile. Our model therefore circumvents any uncertainty in the BH mass that would result from the substantial dust extinction in the galaxy's central region. The best model fit yields , with a statistical model-fitting uncertainty of just 0.18% and systematic uncertainties of 0.62% from various aspects of the model construction and 12% from uncertainty in the distance to NGC 3258. This observation demonstrates the full potential of ALMA for carrying out highly precise measurements of in early-type galaxies containing circumnuclear gas disks.

published proceedings


altmetric score

  • 92.776

author list (cited authors)

  • Boizelle, B. D., Barth, A. J., Walsh, J. L., Buote, D. A., Baker, A. J., Darling, J., & Ho, L. C.

citation count

  • 24

complete list of authors

  • Boizelle, Benjamin D||Barth, Aaron J||Walsh, Jonelle L||Buote, David A||Baker, Andrew J||Darling, Jeremy||Ho, Luis C

publication date

  • January 2019