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Title: Keck Integral-field Spectroscopy of M87 Reveals an Intrinsically Triaxial Galaxy and a Revised Black Hole Mass

The three-dimensional intrinsic shape of a galaxy and the mass of the central supermassive black hole provide key insight into the galaxy’s growth history over cosmic time. Standard assumptions of a spherical or axisymmetric shape can be simplistic and can bias the black hole mass inferred from the motions of stars within a galaxy. Here, we present spatially resolved stellar kinematics of M87 over a two-dimensional 250″ × 300″ contiguous field covering a radial range of 50 pc–12 kpc from integral-field spectroscopic observations at the Keck II Telescope. From about 5 kpc and outward, we detect a prominent 25 km s−1rotational pattern, in which the kinematic axis (connecting the maximal receding and approaching velocities) is 40° misaligned with the photometric major axis of M87. The rotational amplitude and misalignment angle both decrease in the inner 5 kpc. Such misaligned and twisted velocity fields are a hallmark of triaxiality, indicating that M87 is not an axisymmetrically shaped galaxy. Triaxial Schwarzschild orbit modeling with more than 4000 observational constraints enabled us to determine simultaneously the shape and mass parameters. The models incorporate a radially declining profile for the stellar mass-to-light ratio suggested by stellar population studies. We find that M87 is more » strongly triaxial, with ratios ofp= 0.845 for the middle-to-long principal axes andq= 0.722 for the short-to-long principal axes, and determine the black hole mass to be(5.370.25+0.37±0.22)×109M, where the second error indicates the systematic uncertainty associated with the distance to M87.

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Award ID(s):
1817100 2206307
Publication Date:
Journal Name:
The Astrophysical Journal Letters
Page Range or eLocation-ID:
Article No. L35
DOI PREFIX: 10.3847
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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