Viraj Pandya, John Mulchaey, Jenny E. Greene

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13 Scopus citations


We present the first comprehensive archival study of the X-ray properties of ultracompact dwarf (UCD) galaxies, with the goal of identifying weakly accreting central black holes in UCDs. Our study spans 578 UCDs distributed across 13 different host systems, including clusters, groups, fossil groups, and isolated galaxies. Of the 336 spectroscopically confirmed UCDs with usable archival Chandra imaging observations, 21 are X-ray-detected. Imposing a completeness limit of LX > 2 × 1038 erg s-1, the global X-ray detection fraction for the UCD population is ∼3%. Of the 21 X-ray-detected UCDs, seven show evidence of long-term X-ray time variability on the order of months to years. X-ray-detected UCDs tend to be more compact than non-X-ray-detected UCDs, and we find tentative evidence that the X-ray detection fraction increases with surface luminosity density and global stellar velocity dispersion. The X-ray emission of UCDs is fully consistent with arising from a population of low-mass X-ray binaries (LMXBs). In fact, there are fewer X-ray sources than expected using a naive extrapolation from globular clusters. Invoking the fundamental plane of black hole activity for SUCD1 near the Sombrero galaxy, for which archival Jansky Very Large Array imaging at 5 GHz is publicly available, we set an upper limit on the mass of a hypothetical central black hole in that UCD to be ≲105M⊙. While the majority of our sources are likely LMXBs, we cannot rule out central black holes in some UCDs based on X-rays alone, and so we address the utility of follow-up radio observations to find weakly accreting central black holes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number162
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 10 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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