skip to main content

Title: Testing the relativistic Doppler boost hypothesis for the binary candidate quasar PG1302-102 with multiband Swift data
ABSTRACT The bright quasar PG1302-102 has been identified as a candidate supermassive black hole binary from its near-sinusoidal optical variability. While the significance of its optical periodicity has been debated due to the stochastic variability of quasars, its multiwavelength variability in the ultraviolet (UV) and optical bands is consistent with relativistic Doppler boost caused by the orbital motion in a binary. However, this conclusion was based previously on sparse UV data that were not taken simultaneously with the optical data. Here, we report simultaneous follow-up observations of PG1302-102 with the Ultraviolet Optical Telescope on the Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory in six optical + UV bands. The additional nine Swift observations produce light curves roughly consistent with the trend under the Doppler boost hypothesis, which predicts that UV variability should track the optical, but with a ∼2.2 times higher amplitude. We perform a statistical analysis to quantitatively test this hypothesis. We find that the data are consistent with the Doppler boost hypothesis when we compare the the amplitudes in optical B-band and UV light curves. However, the ratio of UV to V-band variability is larger than expected and is consistent with the Doppler model, only if either the UV/optical spectral slopes vary, more » the stochastic variability makes a large contribution in the UV, or the sparse new optical data underestimate the true optical variability. We have evidence for the latter from comparison with the optical light curve from All-Sky Automated Survey for Supernovae. Additionally, the simultaneous analysis of all four bands strongly disfavours the Doppler boost model whenever Swift V band is involved. Additional, simultaneous optical + UV observations tracing out another cycle of the 5.2-yr proposed periodicity should lead to a definitive conclusion. « less
; ; ; ; ; ;
Award ID(s):
Publication Date:
Journal Name:
Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Page Range or eLocation-ID:
1683 to 1696
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Abstract Binary supermassive black holes (BSBHs) are expected to be a generic byproduct from hierarchical galaxy formation. The final coalescence of BSBHs is thought to be the loudest gravitational wave (GW) siren, yet no confirmed BSBH is known in the GW-dominated regime. While periodic quasars have been proposed as BSBH candidates, the physical origin of the periodicity has been largely uncertain. Here we report discovery of a periodicity (P=1607±7 days) at 99.95% significance (with a global p-value of ∼10−3 accounting for the look elsewhere effect) in the optical light curves of a redshift 1.53 quasar, SDSS J025214.67−002813.7. Combining archival Sloan Digital Skymore »Survey data with new, sensitive imaging from the Dark Energy Survey, the total ∼20-yr time baseline spans ∼4.6 cycles of the observed 4.4-yr (restframe 1.7-yr) periodicity. The light curves are best fit by a bursty model predicted by hydrodynamic simulations of circumbinary accretion disks. The periodicity is likely caused by accretion rate modulation by a milli-parsec BSBH emitting GWs, dynamically coupled to the circumbinary accretion disk. A bursty hydrodynamic variability model is statistically preferred over a smooth, sinusoidal model expected from relativistic Doppler boost, a kinematic effect proposed for PG1302−102. Furthermore, the frequency dependence of the variability amplitudes disfavors Doppler boost, lending independent support to the circumbinary accretion variability hypothesis. Given our detection rate of one BSBH candidate from circumbinary accretion variability out of 625 quasars, it suggests that future large, sensitive synoptic surveys such as the Vera C. Rubin Observatory Legacy Survey of Space and Time may be able to detect hundreds to thousands of candidate BSBHs from circumbinary accretion with direct implications for Laser Interferometer Space Antenna.« less
  2. Abstract We examine the light curves of two quasars, motivated by recent suggestions that a supermassive black hole binary (SMBHB) can exhibit sharp lensing spikes. We model the variability of each light curve as due to a combination of two relativistic effects: the orbital relativistic Doppler boost and gravitational binary self-lensing. In order to model each system we extend previous Doppler plus self-lensing models to include eccentricity. The first quasar is identified in optical data as a binary candidate with a 20-yr period (Ark 120), and shows a prominent spike. For this source, we rule out the lensing hypothesis andmore »disfavor the Doppler-boost hypothesis due to discrepancies in the measured vs. recovered values of the binary mass and optical spectral slope. The second source, which we nickname Spikey, is the rare case of an active galactic nucleus (AGN) identified in Kepler’s high-quality, high-cadence photometric data. For this source, we find a model, consisting of a combination of Doppler modulation and a narrow symmetric lensing spike, consistent with an eccentric SMBHB with mass Mtot = 3 × 107M⊙, rest-frame orbital period T = 418 days, eccentricity e = 0.5, and seen at an inclination 8○ from edge-on. This interpretation can be tested by monitoring Spikey for periodic behavior and recurring flares in the next few years. In preparation for such monitoring we present the first X-ray observations of this object taken by the Neil Gehrels Swift observatory.« less
  3. ABSTRACT The variability of quasars across multiple wavelengths is a useful probe of physical conditions in active galactic nuclei. In particular, variable accretion rates, instabilities, and reverberation effects in the accretion disc of a supermassive black hole are expected to produce correlated flux variations in ultraviolet (UV) and optical bands. Recent work has further argued that binary quasars should exhibit strongly correlated UV and optical periodicities. Strong UV–optical correlations have indeed been established in small samples of (N ≲ 30) quasars with well-sampled light curves, and have extended the ‘bluer-when-brighter’ trend previously found within the optical bands. Here, we furthermore »test the nature of quasar variability by examining the observed-frame UV–optical correlations among bright quasars extracted from the Half Million Quasars (HMQ) catalogue. We identified a large sample of 1315 quasars in HMQ with overlapping UV and optical light curves from the Galaxy Evolution Explorer and the Catalina Real-time Transient Survey, respectively. We find that strong correlations exist in this much larger sample, but we rule out, at ∼95 per cent confidence, the simple hypothesis that the intrinsic UV and optical variations of all quasars are fully correlated. Our results therefore imply the existence of physical mechanism(s) that can generate uncorrelated optical and UV flux variations.« less
  4. We present optical photometry and spectroscopy of the Type II supernova ASASSN-14jb, together with Very Large Telescope (VLT) Multi Unit Spectroscopic Explorer (MUSE) integral field observations of its host galaxy and a nebular-phase spectrum. This supernova, in the nearby galaxy ESO 467-G051 ( z  = 0.006), was discovered and followed-up by the all-sky automated survey for supernovae (ASAS-SN). We obtained well-sampled las cumbres network (LCOGTN) B V g r i and Swift w 2 m 1 w 1 u b v optical, near-UV/optical light curves, and several optical spectra in the early photospheric phases. The transient ASASSN-14jb exploded ∼2 kpc abovemore »the star-forming disk of ESO 467-G051, an edge-on disk galaxy. The large projected distance from the disk of the supernova position and the non-detection of any H II region in a 1.4 kpc radius in projection are in conflict with the standard environment of core-collapse supernova progenitors and suggests the possible scenario that the progenitor received a kick in a binary interaction. We present analysis of the optical light curves and spectra, from which we derived a distance of 25 ± 2 Mpc using state-of-the-art empirical methods for Type II SNe, physical properties of the SN explosion ( 56 Ni mass, explosion energy, and ejected mass), and properties of the progenitor; namely the progenitor radius, mass, and metallicity. Our analysis yields a 56 Ni mass of 0.0210  ±  0.0025  M ⊙ , an explosion energy of ≈0.25 × 10 51 ergs, and an ejected mass of ≈6  M ⊙ . We also constrained the progenitor radius to be R *  = 580  ±  28  R ⊙ which seems to be consistent with the sub-Solar metallicity of 0.3  ±  0.1  Z ⊙ derived from the supernova Fe II λ 5018 line. The nebular spectrum constrains strongly the progenitor mass to be in the range 10–12 M ⊙ . From the Spitzer data archive we detect ASASSN-14jb ≈330 days past explosion and we derived a total dust mass of 10 −4   M ⊙ from the 3.6 μ m and 4.5 μ m photometry. Using the F U V , N U V , B V g r i , K s , 3.6 μ m, and 4.5 μ m total magnitudes for the host galaxy, we fit stellar population synthesis models, which give an estimate of M *  ≈ 1 × 10 9   M ⊙ , an age of 3.2 Gyr, and a SFR ≈0.07  M ⊙ yr −1 . We also discuss the low oxygen abundance of the host galaxy derived from the MUSE data, having an average of 12 + log(O/H) = 8.27 +0.16 −0.20 using the O 3 N 2 diagnostic with strong line methods. We compared it with the supernova spectra, which is also consistent with a sub-Solar metallicity progenitor. Following recent observations of extraplanar H II regions in nearby edge-on galaxies, we derived the metallicity offset from the disk, being positive, but consistent with zero at 2 σ , suggesting enrichment from disk outflows. We finally discuss the possible scenarios for the unusual environment for ASASSN-14jb and conclude that either the in-situ star formation or runaway scenario would imply a low-mass progenitor, agreeing with our estimate from the supernova nebular spectrum. Regardless of the true origin of ASASSN-14jb, we show that the detailed study of the environment roughly agree with the stronger constraints from the observation of the transient.« less

    We report on daily monitoring of the Seyfert galaxy ngc 7469, around 95 and 143 GHz, with the iram (Institut de Radioastronomie Millimetrique) 30- m radio telescope, and with the Swift X-ray and UV/optical telescopes, over an overlapping period of 45 d. The source was observed on 36 d with iram, and the flux density in both mm bands was on average ∼10 mJy, but varied by $\pm 50{{\ \rm per\ cent}}$, and by up to a factor of 2 between days. The present iram variability parameters are consistent with earlier monitoring, which had only 18 data points. The X-ray light curve of ngc 7469 over themore »same period spans a factor of 5 in flux with small uncertainties. Similar variability in the mm band and in the X-rays lends support to the notion of both sources originating in the same physical component of the active galactic nucleus (AGN), likely the accretion disc corona. Simultaneous monitoring in eight UV/optical bands shows much less variability than the mm and X-rays, implying this light originates from a different AGN component, likely the accretion disc itself. We use a tentative 14-d lag of the X-ray light curve with respect to the 95 GHz light curve to speculate on coronal implications. More precise mm-band measurements of a sample of X-ray-variable AGN are needed, preferably also on time-scales of less than a day where X-rays vary dramatically, in order to properly test the physical connection between the two bands.

    « less