The search for intermediate-mass black holes

Dr Sebastian Kamann
Dr Renuka Pechetti

A long-standing question in astrophysics is whether intermediate-mass black holes exist. With masses between 100 - 100,000 Msun, such black holes would fill the observed gap between the stellar-mass black holes and the supermassive black holes. The centres of massive star clusters have been suggested as promising hideouts for intermediate-mass black holes, as the high stellar densities near the cluster centres are a conducive environment for black holes to grow. Additionally, some clusters have been suggested to be the remnants of dwarf galaxies and hold a high chance of still hosting the massive black holes formed in said galaxies.

To date, no conclusive observational evidence exists for the presence of intermediate-mass black holes in star clusters. This is mainly caused by the challenges involved in observing the dense cluster centres. In this project, we will use adaptive optics supported observations with integral field spectrographs such as MUSE and Gemini/NIFS in order to study the stellar kinematics of a sample of massive clusters in the Local Group at extremely high spatial resolution. These data will be combined with state-of-the-art dynamical models in order to search for signatures of intermediate-mass black holes.