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Title: Toward Astrometric Constraints on a Supermassive Black Hole Binary in the Early-type Galaxy NGC 4472

The merger of two galaxies, each hosting a supermassive black hole (SMBH) of mass 106Mor more, could yield a bound SMBH binary. For the early-type galaxy NGC 4472, we study how astrometry with a next-generation Very Large Array could be used to monitor the reflex motion of the primary SMBH of massMpri, as it is tugged on by the secondary SMBH of massMsec. Casting the orbit of the putative SMBH binary in terms of its periodP, semimajor axisabin, and mass ratioq=Msec/Mpri1, we find the following: (1) Orbits with fiducial periods ofP= 4 yr and 40 yr could be spatially resolved and monitored. (2) For a 95% accuracy of 2μas per monitoring epoch, subparsec values ofabincould be accessed over a range of mass ratios notionally encompassing majorq>14and minorq<14galaxy mergers. (3) If no reflex motion is detected forMpriafter 1 (10) yr of monitoring, an SMBH binary with periodP= 4 (40) yr and mass ratioq> 0.01 (0.003) could be excluded. This would suggest no present-day evidence for a past major merger like that recently simulated, where scouring by aq∼ 1 SMBH binary formed more » a stellar core with kinematic traits like those of NGC 4472. (4) Astrometric monitoring could independently check the upper limits onqfrom searches for continuous gravitational waves from NGC 4472.

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Publication Date:
Journal Name:
The Astrophysical Journal
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Article No. 12
DOI PREFIX: 10.3847
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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