We have obtained long-slit observations of the circumnuclear region of M87 at three different locations, with a spatial sampling of 0.028" using the Faint Object Camera f/48 spectrograph on board HST. These data allow us to determine the rotation curve of the inner ~1" of the ionized gas disk in [OII]3727 to a distance as close as 0.07" (~5pc) to the dynamic center, thereby significantly improving on both the spatial resolution and coverage of previous FOS observations. We have modeled the kinematics of the gas under the assumption of the existence of both a central black hole and an extended central mass distribution, taking into account the effects of the instrumental PSF, the intrinsic luminosity distribution of the line, and the finite size of the slit. We find that the central mass must be concentrated within a sphere whose maximum radius is 0.05" (~3.5pc) and show that both the observed rotation curve and line profiles are consistent with a thin--disk in keplerian motion. We conclude that the most likely explanation for the observed motions is the presence of a supermassive black hole and derive a value of M_{BH} = (3.2+/-0.9) 10^9 M_{sun} for its mass. (Refer to PDF file for exact formulas).

Publication Date



Also archived in: arXiv:astro-ph/9706252 v1 25 Jun 1997 Based on observations with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, obtained at the Space Telescope Science Institute, which is operated by AURA, Inc., under NASA contract NAS 5-26555 and by STScI grant GO-3594.01-91A.ISSN:1538-4357 Note: imported from RIT’s Digital Media Library running on DSpace to RIT Scholar Works in February 2014.

Document Type


Department, Program, or Center

School of Physics and Astronomy (COS)


RIT – Main Campus