We used the near infrared spectrometer ISAAC at the ESO 'Very Large Telescope' to map the velocity field of Centaurus A (NGC 5128) at several position angles and locations in the central 20" of the galaxy. The high spatial resolution (~0.5") velocity fields from both ionized and molecular gas (PaBeta, [FeII], BrGamma, and H2) are not compromised by either excitation effects or obscuration. We identify three distinct kinematical systems: (i) a rotating 'nuclear disk' of ionized gas, confined to the inner 2", the counterpart of the PaAlpha feature previously revealed by HST/NICMOS imaging; (ii) a ring-like system with a ~6" inner radius detected only in H2, likely the counterpart of the 100pc-scale structure detected in CO by other authors; (iii) a normal extended component of gas rotating in the galactic potential. The nuclear disk is in keplerian rotation around a central mass concentration, dark (M/L>20 Msun/LsunK) and point-like at the spatial resolution of the data (R<0.25" ~4pc). We interpret this mass concentration as a supermassive black hole. Its dynamical mass based on the line velocities and disk inclination (i>15deg) is M=2(+3.0;-1.4) 10^8 Msun. The ring-like system is probably characterized by non-circular motions; a 'figure-of-8' pattern observed in the H2 position-velocity diagram might provide kinematical evidence for the presence of a nuclear bar. (Refer to PDF file for exact formulas).

Publication Date



Also archived in: arXiv:astro-ph/0011059 v1 2 Nov 2000 A.M. acknowledge the partial support of the Italian Space Agency (ASI) through the grant ARS–99–44 and of the Italian Ministry for University and Research (MURST) under grant Cofin98-02-32. A.M., A.C. and DJA acknowledge support from the STScI Visitor Program.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