Electromagnetic signatures of massive black hole binaries

T. Bogdanović, B. D. Smith, M. Eracleous, S. Sigurdsson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We model the electromagnetic emission signatures of massive black hole binaries (MBHBs) with an associated gas component. The method comprises numerical simulations of relativistic binaries and gas coupled with calculations of the physical properties of the emitting gas. We calculate the accretion powered UV/X-ray and Hα light curves and the Hα emission line profiles. The simulations have been carried out with a modified version of the parallel tree SPH code Gadget. The heating, cooling, and radiative processes for the solar metallicity gas have been calculated with the photoionization code Cloudy. We investigate gravitationally bound, sub-parsec binaries which have not yet entered the gravitational radiation phase. The results from the first set of calculations, carried out for a coplanar binary and gas disk, suggest that the outbursts in the X-ray light curve are pronounced during pericentric passages and can serve as a fingerprint for this type of binaries if periodic outbursts are a long lived signature of the binary. The Hα emission-line profiles also offer strong indications of a binary presence and may be used as a criterion for selection of MBHB candidates for further monitoring from existing archival data. The orbital period and mass ratio of a binary could be determined from the Hα light curves and profiles of carefully monitored candidates. Although systems with the orbital periods studied here are not within the frequency band of the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA), their discovery is important for understanding of the merger rates of MBHBs and the evolution of such binaries through the last parsec and towards the detectable gravitational wave window.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)257-263
Number of pages7
JournalAIP Conference Proceedings
StatePublished - 2006

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Physics and Astronomy


Dive into the research topics of 'Electromagnetic signatures of massive black hole binaries'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this