Identifying decaying supermassive black hole binaries from their variable electromagnetic emission

Zoltán Haiman, Bence Kocsis, Kristen Menou, Zoltán Lippai, Z. Frei

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

38 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Supermassive black hole binaries (SMBHBs) with masses in the mass range ∼(104-107) M/(1 + z), produced in galaxy mergers, are thought to complete their coalescence due to the emission of gravitational waves (GWs). The anticipated detection of the GWs by the future Laser Interferometric Space Antenna (LISA) will constitute a milestone for fundamental physics and astrophysics. While the GW signatures themselves will provide a treasure trove of information, if the source can be securely identified in electromagnetic (EM) bands, this would open up entirely new scientific opportunities, to probe fundamental physics, astrophysics and cosmology. We discuss several ideas, involving wide-field telescopes, that may be useful in locating electromagnetic counterparts to SMBHBs detected by LISA. In particular, the binary may produce a variable electromagnetic flux, such as a roughly periodic signal due to the orbital motion prior to coalescence, or a prompt transient signal caused by shocks in the circumbinary disc when the SMBHB recoils and 'shakes' the disc. We discuss whether these time-variable EM signatures may be detectable, and how they can help in identifying a unique counterpart within the localization errors provided by LISA. We also discuss a possibility of identifying a population of coalescing SMBHBs statistically, in a deep optical survey for periodically variable sources, before LISA detects the GWs directly. The discovery of such sources would confirm that gas is present in the vicinity and is being perturbed by the SMBHB-serving as a proof of concept for eventually finding actual LISA counterparts.

Original languageEnglish
Article number094032
JournalClassical and Quantum Gravity
Volume26
Issue number9
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - May 7 2009

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antennas
gravitational waves
electromagnetism
coalescing
lasers
astrophysics
signatures
physics
cosmology
shock
telescopes
galaxies
orbits
probes
gases

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physics and Astronomy (miscellaneous)

Cite this

Identifying decaying supermassive black hole binaries from their variable electromagnetic emission. / Haiman, Zoltán; Kocsis, Bence; Menou, Kristen; Lippai, Zoltán; Frei, Z.

In: Classical and Quantum Gravity, Vol. 26, No. 9, 094032, 07.05.2009.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Haiman, Zoltán ; Kocsis, Bence ; Menou, Kristen ; Lippai, Zoltán ; Frei, Z. / Identifying decaying supermassive black hole binaries from their variable electromagnetic emission. In: Classical and Quantum Gravity. 2009 ; Vol. 26, No. 9.
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