About half of nearby galaxies have a central surface brightness ≥1 mag below that of the sky. The overall properties of these low-surface-brightness galaxies (LSBGs) remain understudied, and in particular we know very little about their massive black hole population. This gap must be closed to determine the frequency of massive black holes at z = 0 as well as to understand their role in regulating galaxy evolution. Here we investigate the incidence and intensity of nuclear, accretion-powered X-ray emission in a sample of 32 nearby LSBGs with the Chandra X-ray Observatory. A nuclear X-ray source is detected in four galaxies (12.5%). Based on an X-ray binary contamination assessment technique developed for normal galaxies, we conclude that the detected X-ray nuclei indicate low-level accretion from massive black holes. The active fraction is consistent with that expected from the stellar mass distribution of the LSBGs, but not their total baryonic mass, when using a scaling relation from an unbiased X-ray survey of normal galaxies. This suggests that their black holes co-evolved with their stellar population. In addition, the apparent agreement nearly doubles the number of galaxies available within ∼100 Mpc for which a measurement of nuclear activity can efficiently constrain the frequency of black holes as a function of stellar mass. We conclude by discussing the feasibility of measuring this occupation fraction to a few percent precision below ≲1010 M o˙ with high-resolution, wide-field X-ray missions currently under consideration.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Astronomy and Astrophysics
- Space and Planetary Science