141 research outputs found

    Linking the fate of massive black hole binaries to the active galactic nuclei luminosity function

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    Massive black hole binaries are naturally predicted in the context of the hierarchical model of structure formation. The binaries that manage to lose most of their angular momentum can coalesce to form a single remnant. In the last stages of this process, the holes undergo an extremely loud phase of gravitational wave emission, possibly detectable by current and future probes. The theoretical effort towards obtaining a coherent physical picture of the binary path down to coalescence is still underway. In this paper, for the first time, we take advantage of observational studies of active galactic nuclei evolution to constrain the efficiency of gas-driven binary decay. Under conservative assumptions we find that gas accretion toward the nuclear black holes can efficiently lead binaries of any mass forming at high redshift (> 2) to coalescence within the current time. The observed "downsizing" trend of the accreting black hole luminosity function further implies that the gas inflow is sufficient to drive light black holes down to coalescence, even if they bind in binaries at lower redshifts, down to z~0.5 for binaries of ~10 million solar masses, and z~0.2 for binaries of ~1 million solar masses. This has strong implications for the detection rates of coalescing black hole binaries of future space-based gravitational wave experiments.Comment: 6 pages, 3 figure, accepted for publication in MNRA

    Massive black hole and gas dynamics in galaxy nuclei mergers. I. Numerical implementation

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    Numerical effects are known to plague adaptive mesh refinement (AMR) codes when treating massive particles, e.g. representing massive black holes (MBHs). In an evolving background, they can experience strong, spurious perturbations and then follow unphysical orbits. We study by means of numerical simulations the dynamical evolution of a pair MBHs in the rapidly and violently evolving gaseous and stellar background that follows a galaxy major merger. We confirm that spurious numerical effects alter the MBH orbits in AMR simulations, and show that numerical issues are ultimately due to a drop in the spatial resolution during the simulation, drastically reducing the accuracy in the gravitational force computation. We therefore propose a new refinement criterion suited for massive particles, able to solve in a fast and precise way for their orbits in highly dynamical backgrounds. The new refinement criterion we designed enforces the region around each massive particle to remain at the maximum resolution allowed, independently upon the local gas density. Such maximally-resolved regions then follow the MBHs along their orbits, and effectively avoids all spurious effects caused by resolution changes. Our suite of high resolution, adaptive mesh-refinement hydrodynamic simulations, including different prescriptions for the sub-grid gas physics, shows that the new refinement implementation has the advantage of not altering the physical evolution of the MBHs, accounting for all the non trivial physical processes taking place in violent dynamical scenarios, such as the final stages of a galaxy major merger.Comment: 11 pages, 11 figures, 1 table, it matches the published versio

    Super-Critical Growth of Massive Black Holes from Stellar-Mass Seeds

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    We consider super-critical accretion with angular momentum onto stellar-mass black holes as a possible mechanism for growing billion-solar-mass holes from light seeds at early times. We use the radiatively-inefficient "slim disk" solution -- advective, optically thick flows that generalize the standard geometrically thin disk model -- to show how mildly super-Eddington intermittent accretion may significantly ease the problem of assembling the first massive black holes when the Universe was less than 0.8 Gyr old. Because of the low radiative efficiencies of slim disks around non-rotating as well as rapidly rotating holes, the mass e-folding timescale in this regime is nearly independent of the spin parameter. The conditions that may lead to super-critical growth in the early Universe are briefly discussed.Comment: 5 pages, 2 figures, matches version accepted by The Astrophysical Journal Letter

    Massive black holes in stellar systems: 'quiescent' accretion and luminosity

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    Only a small fraction of local galaxies harbor an accreting black hole, classified as an active galactic nucleus (AGN). However, many stellar systems are plausibly expected to host black holes, from globular clusters to nuclear star clusters, to massive galaxies. The mere presence of stars in the vicinity of a black hole provides a source of fuel via mass loss of evolved stars. In this paper we assess the expected luminosities of black holes embedded in stellar systems of different sizes and properties, spanning a large range of masses. We model the distribution of stars and derive the amount of gas available to a central black hole through a geometrical model. We estimate the luminosity of the black holes under simple, but physically grounded, assumptions on the accretion flow. Finally we discuss the detectability of 'quiescent' black holes in the local Universe.Comment: ApJ in pres

    Massive black hole and gas dynamics in mergers of galaxy nuclei - II. Black hole sinking in star-forming nuclear discs

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    Mergers of gas-rich galaxies are key events in the hierarchical built-up of cosmic structures, and can lead to the formation of massive black hole binaries. By means of high-resolution hydrodynamical simulations we consider the late stages of a gas-rich major merger, detailing the dynamics of two circumnuclear discs, and of the hosted massive black holes during their pairing phase. During the merger gas clumps with masses of a fraction of the black hole mass form because of fragmentation. Such high-density gas is very effective in forming stars, and the most massive clumps can substantially perturb the black hole orbits. After ∼10\sim 10 Myr from the start of the merger a gravitationally bound black hole binary forms at a separation of a few parsecs, and soon after, the separation falls below our resolution limit of 0.390.39 pc. At the time of binary formation the original discs are almost completely disrupted because of SNa feedback, while on pc scales the residual gas settles in a circumbinary disc with mass ∼105M⊙\sim 10^5 M_\odot. We also test that binary dynamics is robust against the details of the SNa feedback employed in the simulations, while gas dynamics is not. We finally highlight the importance of the SNa time-scale on our results.Comment: 10 pages, 11 figures, MNRAS in pres

    AGN mass estimates in large spectroscopic surveys: the effect of host galaxy light

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    Virial-based methods for estimating active supermassive black hole masses are now commonly used on extremely large spectroscopic quasar catalogues. Most spectral analyses, though, do not pay enough attention to a detailed continuum decomposition. To understand how this affects virial mass estimate results, we test the influence of host galaxy light on them, along with Balmer continuum component. A detailed fit with the new spectroscopic analysis software QSFit demonstrated that the presence or absence of continuum components do not affect significantly the virial-based results for our sample. Taking or not in consideration a host galaxy component, instead, affects the emission line fitting in a more pronounced way at lower redshifts, where in fact we observe dimmer quasars and more visible host galaxies.Comment: 5 pages, 3 figures, accepted for publication on A&

    The influence of Massive Black Hole Binaries on the Morphology of Merger Remnants

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    Massive black hole (MBH) binaries, formed as a result of galaxy mergers, are expected to harden by dynamical friction and three-body stellar scatterings, until emission of gravitational waves (GWs) leads to their final coalescence. According to recent simulations, MBH binaries can efficiently harden via stellar encounters only when the host geometry is triaxial, even if only modestly, as angular momentum diffusion allows an efficient repopulation of the binary loss cone. In this paper, we carry out a suite of N-body simulations of equal-mass galaxy collisions, varying the initial orbits and density profiles for the merging galaxies and running simulations both with and without central MBHs. We find that the presence of an MBH binary in the remnant makes the system nearly oblate, aligned with the galaxy merger plane, within a radius enclosing 100 MBH masses. We never find binary hosts to be prolate on any scale. The decaying MBHs slightly enhance the tangential anisotropy in the centre of the remnant due to angular momentum injection and the slingshot ejection of stars on nearly radial orbits. This latter effect results in about 1% of the remnant stars being expelled from the galactic nucleus. Finally, we do not find any strong connection between the remnant morphology and the binary hardening rate, which depends only on the inner density slope of the remnant galaxy. Our results suggest that MBH binaries are able to coalesce within a few Gyr, even if the binary is found to partially erase the merger-induced triaxiality from the remnant.Comment: 16 pages, 13 figures, 4 tables; accepted for publication in MNRA
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