Prospects for detection of intermediate-mass black holes in globular clusters using integrated-light spectroscopy

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The detection of intermediate-mass black holes (IMBHs) in Galactic globular clusters (GCs) has so far been controversial. In order to characterize the effectiveness of integrated-light spectroscopy through integral field units, we analyse realistic mock data generated from state-of-the-art Monte Carlo simulations of GCs with a central IMBH, considering different setups and conditions varying IMBH mass, cluster distance and accuracy in determination of the centre. The mock observations are modelled with isotropic Jeans models to assess the success rate in identifying the IMBH presence, which we find to be primarily dependent on IMBH mass. However, even for an IMBH of considerable mass (3 per cent of the total GC mass), the analysis does not yield conclusive results in one out of five cases, because of shot noise due to bright stars close to the IMBH line of sight. This stochastic variability in the modelling outcome grows with decreasing BH mass, with approximately three failures out of four for IMBHs with 0.1 per cent of total GC mass. Finally, we find that our analysis is generally unable to exclude at 68 per cent confidence an IMBH with mass of 103 M⊙ in snapshots without a central BH. Interestingly, our results are not sensitive to GC distance within 5–20 kpc, nor to misidentification of the GC centre by less than 2 arcsec (<20 per cent of the core radius). These findings highlight the value of ground-based integral field spectroscopy for large GC surveys, where systematic failures can be accounted for, but stress the importance of discrete kinematic measurements that are less affected by stochasticity induced by bright stars.


  • R. de Vita
  • M. Trenti
  • P. Bianchini
  • A. Askar
  • M. Giersz
  • G. van de Ven
Externa organisationer
  • University of Melbourne
  • Max Planck Institute for Astronomy
  • McMaster University
  • Nicolaus Copernicus Astronomical Center of the Polish Academy of Sciences

Ämnesklassifikation (UKÄ) – OBLIGATORISK

  • Astronomi, astrofysik och kosmologi
Sidor (från-till)4057-4066
Antal sidor10
TidskriftMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
StatusPublished - 2017 feb 1
Peer review utfördJa
Externt publiceradJa