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Journal Article

Blindly Detecting Merging Supermassive Black Holes with Radio Surveys

MPS-Authors
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Sesana,  Alberto
Astrophysical Relativity, AEI-Golm, MPI for Gravitational Physics, Max Planck Society;

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Fulltext (public)

1105.3653
(Preprint), 165KB

APJL_734_2_L37.pdf
(Any fulltext), 193KB

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Citation

Kaplan, D. L., O'Shaughnessy, R., Sesana, A., & Volonteri, M. (2011). Blindly Detecting Merging Supermassive Black Holes with Radio Surveys. The Astrophysical Journal Letters, 734(2): L37. doi:10.1088/2041-8205/734/2/L37.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-000F-0736-9
Abstract
Supermassive black holes presumably grow through numerous mergers throughout cosmic time. During each merger, supermassive black hole binaries are surrounded by a circumbinary accretion disk that imposes a significant (~1e4 G for a binary of 1e8 Msun) magnetic field. The motion of the binary through that field will convert the field energy to Poynting flux, with a luminosity ~1e43 erg/s (B/1e4 G)^2 (M/1e8 Msun)^2, some of which may emerge as synchrotron emission at frequencies near 1 GHz where current and planned wide-field radio surveys will operate. We find that the short timescales of many mergers will limit their detectability with most planned blind surveys to <1 per year over the whole sky, independent of the details of the emission process and flux distribution. Including an optimistic estimate for the radio flux makes detection even less likely, with <1 mergers per year over the whole sky. However, wide-field radio instruments may be able to localize systems identified in advance of merger by gravitational waves. Further, radio surveys may be able to detect the weaker emission produced by the binary's motion as it is modulated by spin-orbit precession and inspiral well in advance of merger.