The MASSIVE Survey. XV. A Stellar Dynamical Mass Measurement of the Supermassive Black Hole in Massive Elliptical Galaxy NGC 1453

Christopher M. Liepold, Matthew E. Quenneville, Chung Pei Ma, Jonelle L. Walsh, Nicholas J. McConnell, Jenny E. Greene, John P. Blakeslee

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20 Scopus citations


We present a new stellar dynamical mass measurement (MBH) of the supermassive black hole (SMBH) in NGC 1453, a fast-rotating massive elliptical galaxy in the MASSIVE survey. We measure stellar kinematics in 135 spatial bins in the central 1.5 kpc × 2 kpc region of the galaxy using high signal-to-noise ratio (S/N ∼ 130) spectra from the Gemini-North GMOS integral field spectrograph (IFS). Combining with wide-field IFS kinematics out to ∼3 effective radii and stellar light distributions from Hubble Space Telescope Wide Field Camera 3 images, we perform Schwarzschild orbit-based mass modeling in the axisymmetric limit to constrain the mass components in NGC 1453. The best-fit black hole mass is MBH =(2.9 ± 0.4) × 109 M the mass models without a central black hole are excluded at the 8.7σ level. The NGC 1453 black hole lies within the intrinsic scatter of the SMBH and galaxy scaling relations, unlike three other galaxies hosting ∼ 1010 M SMBHs in the MASSIVE sample. The high-S/N GMOS spectra enable us to determine eight moments of the Gauss-Hermite expansion of the line-of-sight velocity distributions (LOSVDs), which are used as constraints in the orbit modeling. The stellar orbits in the mass models are further constrained to produce negligible h 9 through h 12 to minimize spurious behavior in the LOSVDs. We show that truncating the series at h 4, as was often done in prior work, leads to a much weaker constraint on the inferred MBH for NGC 1453. Furthermore, we discuss precautions and modifications that are needed to achieve axisymmetry in triaxial orbit codes that use the Schwarzschild method to sample the start space of stellar orbits in triaxial gravitational potentials.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number4
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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