AAS 205th Meeting, 9-13 January 2005
Session 121 G-waves: Gamma Rays and Gravity
Oral, Wednesday, January 12, 2005, 10:00-11:30am, Royal Palm 4-6

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[121.02] Electromagnetic Signature of Massive Black Hole Coalescence

M. Milosavljevic, E. S. Phinney (Caltech)

The final merger of a pair of massive black holes in a galactic nucleus is compelled by gravitational radiation. Gravitational waves from the mergers of black holes of masses 105-7(1+z)-1M\odot at redshifts of 1-20 will be readily detectable by the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA), but an electromagnetic afterglow would be helpful in pinpointing the source and its redshift. Long before the merger, the binary ``hollows out'' any surrounding gas, and shrinks slowly compared to the viscous timescale of a circumbinary disk. The inner gas disk is truncated at the radius where gravitational torque from the binary balances the viscous torque, and accretion onto the black holes is suppressed. Initially the inner truncation radius is able to follow the shrinking binary inwards. But eventually the gravitational radiation timescale becomes shorter than the viscous timescale in the disk, leading to a merged black hole surrounded by a hollow disk of gas. The subsequent viscous evolution of the hollow, radiation-pressure dominated disk will create a ~ 1043.5(M/106M\odot)erg s-1 X-ray source on a timescale ~7(1+z)(M/106M\odot)1.32\,yr. This justifies follow-up monitoring of gravitational wave events with next-generation X-ray observatories. Analysis of the detailed light curve of these afterglows will yield new insights into the subtle physics of accretion onto massive black holes.

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© 2004. The American Astronomical Society.