Emission Signatures from Subparsec Binary Supermassive Black Holes. III. Comparison of Models with Observations

Khai Nguyen, Tamara Bogdanović, Jessie C. Runnoe, Michael Eracleous, Steinn Sigurdsson, Todd Boroson

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11 Scopus citations


We present a method for comparing the Hβ emission-line profiles of observed supermassive black hole (SBHB) candidates and models of subparsec SBHBs in circumbinary disks. Using the approach based on principal component analysis, we infer the values of the binary parameters for the spectroscopic SBHB candidates and evaluate the parameter degeneracies, representative of the uncertainties intrinsic to such measurements. We find that as a population, the SBHB candidates favor the average value of the semimajor axis corresponding to log(a/M) ≈ 4.20 ± 0.42 and comparable mass ratios, q > 0.5. If the SBHB candidates considered are true binaries, this result would suggest that there is a physical process that allows initially unequal-mass systems to evolve toward comparable mass ratios (e.g., accretion that occurs preferentially onto the smaller of the black holes) or point to some, yet unspecified, selection bias. Our method also indicates that the SBHB candidates equally favor configurations in which the mini-disks are coplanar or misaligned with the binary orbital plane. If confirmed for true SBHBs, this finding would indicate the presence of a physical mechanism that maintains misalignment of the mini-disks down to subparsec binary separations (e.g., precession driven by gravitational torques). The probability distributions of the SBHB parameters inferred for the observed SBHB candidates and our control group of AGNs are statistically indistinguishable, implying that this method can in principle be used to interpret the observed emission-line profiles once a sample of confirmed SBHBs is available but cannot be used as a conclusive test of binarity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number105
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 10 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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