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NGC 3627: Revealing Hidden Black Holes

  • NGC 3627 is a spiral galaxy located about 30 million light years away.

  • This composite view contains X-ray (blue), infrared (red), and optical data (yellow).

  • A survey of galaxies that included NGC 3627 to look for supermassive black holes was recently completed.

The spiral galaxy NGC 3627 is located about 30 million light years from Earth. This composite image includes X-ray data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory (blue), infrared data from the Spitzer Space Telescope (red), and optical data from the Hubble Space Telescope and the Very Large Telescope (yellow). The inset shows the central region, which contains a bright X-ray source that is likely powered by material falling onto a supermassive black hole.

A search using archival data from previous Chandra observations of a sample of 62 nearby galaxies has shown that 37 of the galaxies, including NGC 3627, contain X-ray sources in their centers. Most of these sources are likely powered by central supermassive black holes. The survey, which also used data from the Spitzer Infrared Nearby Galaxy Survey, found that seven of the 37 sources are new supermassive black hole candidates.

Confirming previous Chandra results, this study finds the fraction of galaxies found to be hosting supermassive black holes is much higher than found with optical searches. This shows the ability of X-ray observations to find black holes in galaxies where relatively low-level black hole activity has either been hidden by obscuring material or washed out by the bright optical light of the galaxy.

The combined X-ray and infrared data suggest that the nuclear activity in a galaxy is not necessarily related to the amount of star-formation in the galaxy, contrary to some early claims. In contrast, these new results suggest that the mass of the supermassive black hole and the rate at which the black hole accretes matter are both greater for galaxies with greater total masses.

A paper describing these results was published in the April 10, 2011 issue of The Astrophysical Journal. The authors are Catherine Grier and Smita Mathur of The Ohio State University in Columbus, OH; Himel GHosh of CNRS/CEA-Saclay in Guf-sur-Yvette, France and Laura Ferrarese from Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics in Victoria, Canada.

NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., manages the Chandra program for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory controls Chandra's science and flight operations from Cambridge, Mass.


60 second podcast on NGC 3627

Fast Facts for NGC 3627:
Credit  NASA/CXC/Ohio State Univ./C.Grier et al.; Optical: NASA/STScI, ESO/WFI; Infrared: NASA/JPL-Caltech
Release Date  December 13, 2012
Scale  Image is 6.8 arcmin across (about 57,000 light years)
Category  Normal Galaxies & Starburst Galaxies
Coordinates (J2000)  RA 11h 20m 15.0s | Dec 12° 59´ 30.00"
Constellation  Leo
Observation Date  March 31, 2008
Observation Time  14 hours 10 min
Obs. ID  9548
Instrument  ACIS
References Grier, C. et al, 2011, ApJ, 731, 60; arXiv:1011.4295
Color Code  X-ray (Blue), Optical (Yellow), Infrared (Red)
Distance Estimate  About 29 million light years
distance arrow
Visitor Comments (5)

Are these central supermassive black holes the factory of young stars?

Posted by Fatemeh on Wednesday, 06.6.18 @ 12:14pm

The research has shown that 37 of the nearby galaxies contain X-ray sources in their centers, are the other galaxies on which the researchers has studied, older than the first group or they're younger? I know that we may not be able to say they're all older or younger, I want to know the age of most of them.

Posted by Fatemeh on Wednesday, 06.6.18 @ 12:03pm

So the nuclear activity is related to what at the end if it's not related to the amount of star-formation. I mean what in the results of combining X-rays and Infrared proved that? Please answer.

Posted by NASAFan on Friday, 06.27.14 @ 07:38am

Fascinating and extremely time consuming, when getting along with this chunky parts of our universe - our fundamental heritage And thanks for dealing scientifically with it at an understandable level, which doesn't require a Phd...

Posted by lotte starck on Friday, 12.27.13 @ 03:47am

Informative & a good educational way to teach someone of the nature of the Universe as good as we can describe it, The beauty of the Heavenly Bodies in space are indeed made beautiful with the many types of cameras on today's probes,

Posted by Dave Harmon on Friday, 10.4.13 @ 20:06pm

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