Discovery of a Planar Black Hole Mass Scaling Relation for Spiral Galaxies

Benjamin L. Davis, Zehao Jin

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Supermassive black holes (SMBHs) are tiny in comparison to the galaxies they inhabit, yet they manage to influence and coevolve along with their hosts. Evidence of this mutual development is observed in the structure and dynamics of galaxies and their correlations with black hole mass (M ). For our study, we focus on relative parameters that are unique to only disk galaxies. As such, we quantify the structure of spiral galaxies via their logarithmic spiral-arm pitch angles (ϕ) and their dynamics through the maximum rotational velocities of their galactic disks (v max). In the past, we have studied black hole mass scaling relations between M and ϕ or v max, separately. Now, we combine the three parameters into a trivariate M -ϕ-v max relationship that yields best-in-class accuracy in prediction of black hole masses in spiral galaxies. Because most black hole mass scaling relations have been created from samples of the largest SMBHs within the most massive galaxies, they lack certainty when extrapolated to low-mass spiral galaxies. Thus, it is difficult to confidently use existing scaling relations when trying to identify galaxies that might harbor the elusive class of intermediate-mass black holes (IMBHs). Therefore, we offer our novel relationship as an ideal predictor to search for IMBHs and probe the low-mass end of the black hole mass function by utilizing spiral galaxies. Already with rotational velocities widely available for a large population of galaxies and pitch angles readily measurable from uncalibrated images, we expect that the M -ϕ-v max fundamental plane will be a useful tool for estimating black hole masses, even at high redshifts.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Article numberL22
    JournalAstrophysical Journal Letters
    Issue number1
    StatePublished - Oct 1 2023

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Astronomy and Astrophysics
    • Space and Planetary Science


    Dive into the research topics of 'Discovery of a Planar Black Hole Mass Scaling Relation for Spiral Galaxies'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this