Press Release: Astronomers detect black hole in tiny 'dwarf' galaxy

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Background Supermassive black holes (SMBHs) are the most extreme examples of gravity in action. The possibility that they can lead to new insights into general relativity, with broad impact on physics and cosmology, is part of the motivation for the LISA space mission. Moreover, SMBHs sit at privileged locations, the centers of galaxies, which themselves are extraordinary laboratories of galactic evolution. Empirical scaling relations, such as the M-σ and M-Mhalo relations, point to a tight coupling between small scales and the galaxy overall. Identifying the progenitors of SMBHs, which are expected to reside in small/dwarf galaxies, is vital to understanding how SMBH form and grow.

Figure 1 shows the WFPC2 F814W image of the galaxy VCC 128 (left panel, 32" x 37"). On the top right we zoom into the central 2.5" x 1.5", showing that the nucleus is resolved into two components. The bottom right shows the same zoom into the V-I color map, where V-I ranges between 1 and 2 mag, reaching a value of about 1 in the double nucleus.

Figure 2 shows the WFPC2 F814W image of the galaxy VCC 128 (left panel, 32" x 37"). The right panel zooms into the central 2.5" x 1.5", showing that the nucleus is resolved into two components.

Figure 3 shows the WFPC2 F814W image of the galaxy VCC 128 (left panel, 32" x 37"). The right panel zooms into the central 2.5" x 1.5", showing that the nucleus is resolved into two components.

Figure 4 shows a cartoon of VCC 128. The outer envelope of stars (yellow) surrounds a stellar ring (red) orbiting around a supermassive black hole (black dot). Seen in projection, the ring of stars appears as a double nucleus.

Press release for a general audience.

AAS Poster describing the discovery and implications. Intended for an audience with some understanding of astronomy.

Paper published in peer-reviewed journal Astrophysical Journal Letters (Debattista, Ferreras, Pasquali, Seth, De Rijcke, Morelli, 2006, ApJ, 651, L97).

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