Indication for an intermediate-mass black hole in the globular cluster NGC 5286 from kinematics

Research paper by A. Feldmeier, N. Lützgendorf, N. Neumayer, M. Kissler-Patig, K. Gebhardt, H. Baumgardt, E. Noyola, P. T. de Zeeuw, B. Jalali

Indexed on: 15 Apr '13Published on: 15 Apr '13Published in: arXiv - Astrophysics - Astrophysics of Galaxies


Intermediate-mass black holes (IMBHs, 10^2-10^5 M_sun) fill the gap between stellar-mass black holes and supermassive black holes (SMBHs). Simulations have shown that IMBHs may form in dense star clusters, and therefore may still be present in these smaller stellar systems. We investigate the Galactic globular cluster NGC 5286 for indications of a central IMBH using spectroscopic data from VLT/FLAMES, velocity measurements from the Rutgers Fabry Perot at CTIO, and photometric data from HST. We run analytic spherical and axisymmetric Jeans models with different central black-hole masses, anisotropy, mass-to-light ratio, and inclination. Further, we compare the data to a grid of N-body simulations without tidal field. Additionally, we use one N-body simulation to check the results of the spherical Jeans models for the total cluster mass. Both the Jeans models and the N-body simulations favor the presence of a central black hole in NGC 5286 and our detection is at the 1- to 1.5-sigma level. From the spherical Jeans models we obtain a best fit with black-hole mass M_BH=(1.5+-1.0)x10^3 M_sun. The error is the 68% confidence limit from Monte Carlo simulations. Axisymmetric models give a consistent result. The best fitting N-body model is found with a black hole of 0.9% of the total cluster mass (4.38+-0.18)x10^5 M_sun, which results in an IMBH mass of M_BH=(3.9+-2.0)x10^3 M_sun. Jeans models give lower values for the total cluster mass. Our test of the Jeans models with N-body simulation data shows that this discrepancy has two reasons: The influence of a radially varying M/L profile, and underestimation of the velocity dispersion as the measurements are limited to bright stars. We conclude that detection of IMBHs in Galactic globular clusters remains a challenging task unless their mass fractions are above those found for SMBHs in nearby galaxies. [abridged]