Massive Black Hole Formation in Dense Stellar Environments: Enhanced X-Ray Detection Rates in High-velocity Dispersion Nuclear Star Clusters

Vivienne F. Baldassare*, Nicholas C. Stone, Adi Foord, Elena Gallo, Jeremiah P. Ostriker

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations

Abstract

We analyze Chandra X-ray Observatory imaging of 108 galaxies hosting nuclear star clusters (NSCs) to search for signatures of massive black holes (BHs). NSCs are extremely dense stellar environments with conditions that can theoretically facilitate massive BH formation. Recent work by Stone et al. finds that sufficiently dense NSCs should be unstable to the runaway growth of a stellar-mass BH into a massive BH via tidal captures. Furthermore, there is a velocity dispersion threshold (40 km s-1) above which NSCs should inevitably form a massive BH. To provide an observational test of these theories, we measure X-ray emission from NSCs and compare it to the measured velocity dispersion and tidal capture runaway timescale. We find that NSCs above the 40 km s-1 threshold are X-ray detected at roughly twice the rate of those below (after accounting for contamination from X-ray binaries). These results are consistent with a scenario in which dense, high-velocity NSCs can form massive BHs, providing a formation pathway that does not rely on conditions found only at high redshift.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number84
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Volume929
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022. The Author(s). Published by the American Astronomical Society.

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