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A 10,000-solar-mass black hole in the nucleus of a bulgeless dwarf galaxy

Abstract

The motions of gas and stars in the nuclei of nearby galaxies have demonstrated that massive black holes are common1 and that their masses correlate with the stellar velocity dispersion σ of the bulge2,3,4. This correlation suggests that massive black holes and galaxies influence each other’s growth5,6,7. Dynamical measurements are less reliable when the sphere of influence is unresolved; thus, it remains unknown whether this correlation exists in galaxies much smaller than the Milky Way. Light echoes from photoionized clouds around accreting black holes8,9, in combination with the velocity of these clouds, yield a direct mass measurement that circumvents this difficulty. Here we report an exceptionally low reverberation delay of 83 ± 14 min between variability in the accretion disk and Hα emission from the nucleus of the dwarf galaxy NGC 4395. Combined with the Hα velocity dispersion σline = 426 ± 1 km s−1, this lag determines a mass of about 10,000 M for the black hole (MBH). This mass is among the smallest central black hole masses reported, near the low end of expected masses for heavy ‘seeds’10,11,12, and the best direct mass measurement for a galaxy of this size. Despite the lack of a bulge, NGC 4395 is consistent with the MBHσ relation, indicating that the relation need not originate from hierarchical galaxy assembly nor from black hole feedback.

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The data that support the plots within this paper and other findings of this study are available from the corresponding author upon reasonable request.

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Peer review information: Nature Astronomy thanks Michael Fausnaugh and Jonathan Trump for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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Acknowledgements

This work has been supported by the Basic Science Research Program through the National Research Foundation of Korea government (2016R1A2B3011457), and by Samsung Science and Technology Foundation under Project Number SSTF-BA1501-05. This work was supported by K-GMT Science Program (PID: GN-2017A-Q-2) of Korea Astronomy and Space Science Institute. We thank the various contributions from the NGC 4395 Collaboration.

Author information

J.-H.W. wrote the manuscript with comments from all authors and performed much of the analysis. J.-H.W. also carried out the Gemini observations and coordinated all observations. H.C. analysed the photometric light curves and Gemini spectra to measure the lag and velocity dispersion. E.G. substantially revised the manuscript and contributed to the analysis. E.H.-K. carried out MDM observations and revised the manuscript. H.A.N.L., J.S. and D.S. carried out MDM observations. J.C.H. carried out MLO observations.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Correspondence to Jong-Hak Woo.

Supplementary information

  1. Supplementary Information

    Supplementary Figs. 1 and 2.

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Further reading

Fig. 1: Cross-correlation analysis of photometric light curves.
Fig. 2: Continuum-corrected Hα light curve.
Fig. 3: Hα velocity measurement based on spectral decomposition.
Fig. 4: MBHσ relation.