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Gravitationally redshifted emission implying an accretion disk and massive black hole in the active galaxy MCG–6–30–15

Abstract

ACTIVE galactic nuclei and quasars are probably powered by the accretion of gas onto a supermassive black hole at the centre of the host galaxy1, but direct confirmation of the presence of a black hole is hard to obtain. As the gas nears the event horizon, its velocity should approach the speed of light; the resulting relativistic effects, and a gravitational redshift arising from the proximity to the black hole, should be observable, allowing us to test specific predictions of the models with the observations. Here we report the detection of these relativistic effects in an X-ray emission line (the Kα line) from ionized iron in the galaxy MCG–6–30–15. The line is extremely broad, corresponding to a velocity of 100,000 km s−1, and asymmetric, with most of the line flux being redshifted. These features indicate that the line most probably arises in a region between three and ten Schwarzschild radii from the centre, so that we are observing the innermost region of the accretion disk.

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