• galaxies: kinematics and dynamics;
  • X-rays: galaxies


The accuracy and robustness of a simple method to estimate the total mass profile of a galaxy are tested using a sample of 65 cosmological zoom simulations of individual galaxies. The method only requires information on the optical surface brightness and the projected velocity dispersion profiles, and therefore can be applied even in the case of poor observational data. In the simulated sample, massive galaxies (σ≃ 200–400  km s−1) at redshift z= 0 have almost isothermal rotation curves for broad range of radii (rms ≃ 5 per cent for the circular speed deviations from a constant value over 0.5Reff < r < 3Reff). For such galaxies, the method recovers the unbiased value of the circular speed. The sample-averaged deviation from the true circular speed is less than ∼1 per cent with the scatter of ≃5–8 per cent (rms) up to R≃ 5Reff. Circular speed estimates of massive non-rotating simulated galaxies at higher redshifts (z= 1 and 2) are also almost unbiased and with the same scatter. For the least massive galaxies in the sample (σ < 150  km s−1) at z= 0, the rms deviation is ≃7–9 per cent and the mean deviation is biased low by about 1–2 per cent. We also derive the circular velocity profile from the hydrostatic equilibrium (HE) equation for hot gas in the simulated galaxies. The accuracy (rms) of this estimate is about 4–5 per cent for massive objects (M > 6.5 × 1012 M) and the HE estimate is biased low by ≃ 3–4 per cent, which can be traced to the presence of gas motions. This implies that the simple mass estimate can be used to determine the mass of observed massive elliptical galaxies to an accuracy of 5–8 per cent and can be very useful for galaxy surveys.