Imaging surveys with the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) have shown that 50–80% of low- and intermediate-luminosity galaxies contain a compact stellar nucleus at their center, regardless of host galaxy morphological type. We combine HST imaging for early-type galaxies from the ACS Virgo Cluster Survey with ground-based long-slit spectra from KPNO to show that the masses of compact stellar nuclei in Virgo Cluster galaxies obey a tight correlation with the masses of the host galaxies. The same correlation is obeyed by the supermassive black holes (SBHs) found in predominantly massive galaxies. The compact stellar nuclei in the Local Group galaxies M33 and NGC 205 are also found to fall along this same scaling relation. These results indicate that a generic by-product of galaxy formation is the creation of a central massive object (CMO) — either a SBH or a compact stellar nucleus — that contains a mean fraction, 0.2%, of the total galactic mass. In galaxies with masses greater than Mgal a few 1010M⊙, SBHs appear to be the dominant mode of CMO formation.

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Also archived in: arXiv:astro-ph/0603840 v3 Apr 24 2006Note: imported from RIT’s Digital Media Library running on DSpace to RIT Scholar Works in February 2014.

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Department, Program, or Center

School of Physics and Astronomy (COS)


RIT – Main Campus