Modeling AGN outbursts from supermassive black hole binaries
Max-Planck-Institute for Astrophysics, Karl-Schwarzschild-Strasse 1, 85741 Garching bei Muenchen, Germany
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When galaxies merge to assemble more massive galaxies, their nuclear supermassive black holes (SMBHs) should form bound binaries. As these interact with their stellar and gaseous environments, they will become increasingly compact, culminating in inspiral and coalescence through the emission of gravitational radiation. Because galaxy mergers and interactions are also thought to fuel star formation and nuclear black hole activity, it is plausible that such binaries would lie in gas-rich environments and power active galactic nuclei (AGN). The primary difference is that these binaries have gravitational potentials that vary – through their orbital motion as well as their orbital evolution – on humanly tractable timescales, and are thus excellent candidates to give rise to coherent AGN variability in the form of outbursts and recurrent transients. Although such electromagnetic signatures would be ideally observed concomitantly with the binary’s gravitational-wave signatures, they are also likely to be discovered serendipitously in wide-field, high-cadence surveys; some may even be confused for stellar tidal disruption events. I discuss several types of possible “smoking gun” AGN signatures caused by the peculiar geometry predicted for accretion disks around SMBH binaries.
© Owned by the authors, published by EDP Sciences, 2012
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