Featured Image: Oscillations from Merging Giants

What happens to accreting gas when two supermassive black holes merge? The dramatic scene above shows the behavior of disk gas in a still from a simulation of such a merger; the two smaller black disks represent the black holes, and the larger disk in the center is a cutout at the center of mass. In this new study, a team of scientists led by Dennis Bowen (Los Alamos National Laboratory and Rochester Institute of Technology) have conducted the first exploration of how magnetized mini-disks around supermassive black holes can couple to the accreting gas surrounding the binary in the moments shortly before the black holes merge. The team’s simulations show that asymmetries in this coupling can drive strong oscillations in the system — and these could introduce distinctive, increasingly rapid fluctuations in the electromagnetic emission that we might be able to detect from supermassive black hole mergers that are surrounded by gas. To learn more about the authors’ discoveries, check out the article below.


“Quasi-periodicity of Supermassive Binary Black Hole Accretion Approaching Merger,” Dennis B. Bowen et al 2019 ApJ 879 76. doi:10.3847/1538-4357/ab2453