Letter | Published:

An ultraviolet flare at the centre of the elliptical galaxy NGC4552

Nature volume 378, pages 3941 (02 November 1995) | Download Citation

Subjects

Abstract

MOST present-day galaxies are not 'active', in that they show no signs of continuing, high-energy events. The high energy output of an active galaxy is usually attributed to accretion of gas onto a massive black hole at its centre. Yet it remains an open question whether such black holes might exist at the centre of most large galaxies, and be undetected because no gas is presently being accreted to power a nuclear emission1. Here we report the detection of an ultraviolet flare at the centre of NGC4552, an otherwise optically quiescent elliptical galaxy. The flare reached a luminosity about one million times that of the Sun, and probably arose from a mild accretion event onto a central black hole. The accreted gas could have come either from a star passing nearby, or from an interstellar cloud. This serendipitous discovery suggests that ultra-violet flares near the centres of galaxies may be common events,and offers a new way to search for black-hole-related activities in otherwise quiescent galaxies.

Access optionsAccess options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.

from$8.99

All prices are NET prices.

References

  1. 1.

    Nature 333, 523–528 (1988).

  2. 2.

    , , , & Astrophys. J. 328, 440–462 (1988).

  3. 3.

    et al. Astr. J. 106, 1371–1393 (1993).

  4. 4.

    Instrument Science Report FOC-074 (Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, MD, 1994).

  5. 5.

    , & Astr. J. 108, 202–206 (1994).

  6. 6.

    & in Supernovae (ed. Woosley, S. E.) 497–502 (Springer, New York, 1992).

  7. 7.

    & Astrophys. Lett. 17, 87–93 (1976).

  8. 8.

    et al. Astr. J. 95, 1619–1628 (1988).

  9. 9.

    Science 247, 817–823 (1990).

  10. 10.

    , & Astrophys. J. 351, 38–46 (1990).

  11. 11.

    in The Center of the Galaxy (ed. Morris, M.) 543–553 (Kluwer, Dordrecht, 1989).

  12. 12.

    Astrophys. J. 422, 508–520 (1994).

  13. 13.

    & Astr. J. 101, 1647–1658 (1991).

  14. 14.

    Mon. Not. R. astr. Soc. 200, 705–731 (1982).

  15. 15.

    Astr. J. 101, 127–147 (1991).

  16. 16.

    , , & Mon. Not. R. astr. Soc. 218, 429–444 (1986).

  17. 17.

    , & Austr. J. Phys., Astrophys. Suppl. 46, 1–17 (1979).

  18. 18.

    et al. Astrophys. J. 435, L27–L36 (1994).

  19. 19.

    et al. Nature 373, 127–129 (1995).

Download references

Author information

Affiliations

  1. European Southern Observatory, D-85748 Garching bei München,Germany

    • Alvio Renzini
  2. Department of Astronomy, University of Bologna, 1-40126 Bologna,Italy

    • Alvio Renzini
    •  & Laura Greggio
  3. Osservatorio Astrofisico di Arcetri, Firenze, Italy

    • Sperello di Serego Alighieri
  4. Department of Astronomy, University of Padova, Italy

    • Michele Cappellari
    •  & Francesco Bertola
  5. Department of Physics and Astronomy, Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona, USA

    • David Burstein

Authors

  1. Search for Alvio Renzini in:

  2. Search for Laura Greggio in:

  3. Search for Sperello di Serego Alighieri in:

  4. Search for Michele Cappellari in:

  5. Search for David Burstein in:

  6. Search for Francesco Bertola in:

About this article

Publication history

Received

Accepted

Published

DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/378039a0

Further reading

Comments

By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.