The globular cluster/central black hole connection in galaxies Academic Article uri icon

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abstract

  • We explore the relation between the total globular cluster population in a galaxy (N_GC) and the the mass of its central black hole (M_BH). Using a sample of 33 galaxies, twice as large as the original sample discussed by Burkert & Tremaine (2010), we find that N_GC for elliptical and spiral galaxies increases in almost precisely direct proportion to M_BH. The S0-type galaxies by contrast do not follow a clear trend, showing large scatter in M_BH at a given N_GC. After accounting for observational measurement uncertainty, we find that the mean relation defined by the E and S galaxies must also have an intrinsic or "cosmic" scatter of +-0.2 in either logN_GC or logM_BH. The residuals from this correlation show no trend with globular cluster specific frequency. We suggest that these two types of galaxy subsystems (central black hole and globular cluster system) may be closely correlated because they both originated at high redshift during the main epoch of hierarchical merging, and both require extremely high-density conditions for formation. Lastly, we note that roughly 10% of the galaxies in our sample (one E, one S, and two S0) deviate strongly from the main trend, all in the sense that their M_BH is at least 10x smaller than would be predicted by the mean relation.

publication date

  • February 1, 2011