skip to main content

Search for: All records

Creators/Authors contains: "McKernan, Barry"

Note: When clicking on a Digital Object Identifier (DOI) number, you will be taken to an external site maintained by the publisher. Some full text articles may not yet be available without a charge during the embargo (administrative interval).
What is a DOI Number?

Some links on this page may take you to non-federal websites. Their policies may differ from this site.

  1. Abstract Active galactic nuclei (AGNs) are promising environments for the assembly of merging binary black hole (BBH) systems. Interest in AGNs as nurseries for merging BBHs is rising, following the detection of gravitational waves from a BBH system from the purported pair-instability mass gap, most notably GW190521. AGNs have also been invoked to explain the formation of the high-mass-ratio system GW190814. We draw on simulations of BBH systems in AGNs to propose a phenomenological model for the distribution of black hole spins of merging binaries in AGN disks. The model incorporates distinct features that make the AGN channel potentially distinguishable from other channels, such as assembly in the field and in globular clusters. The model parameters can be mapped heuristically to the age and density of the AGN disks. We estimate the extent to which different populations of mergers in AGNs can be distinguished. If the majority of merging black holes are assembled in AGNs, future gravitational-wave observations may provide insights into the dynamics of AGN disks.
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available May 26, 2023
  2. Abstract The disks of active galactic nuclei (AGNs) may be important sites of binary black hole (BBH) mergers. Here we show via numerical experiments with the high-accuracy, high-precision code SpaceHub that broken symmetry in dynamical encounters in AGN disks can lead to asymmetry between prograde and retrograde BBH mergers. The direction of the hardening asymmetry depends on the initial binary semimajor axis. Under the assumption that the spin of the BHs becomes aligned with the angular momentum of the disk on a short timescale compared with the encounter timescale, an asymmetric distribution of mass-weighted projected spin χ eff is predicted in LIGO–Virgo detections of BBH mergers from AGN disks. In particular, this model predicts that positive χ eff BBH mergers are most likely for encounters with massive tertiaries in migration traps at radial distances ≳500–600 gravitational radii.
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 1, 2022
  3. ABSTRACT Active galactic nuclei (AGN) are powered by the accretion of discs of gas on to supermassive black holes (SMBHs). Stars and stellar remnants orbiting the SMBH in the nuclear star cluster (NSC) will interact with the AGN disc. Orbiters plunging through the disc experience a drag force and, through repeated passage, can have their orbits captured by the disc. A population of embedded objects in AGN discs may be a significant source of binary black hole mergers, supernovae, tidal disruption events, and embedded gamma-ray bursts. For two representative AGN disc models, we use geometric drag and Bondi–Hoyle–Littleton drag to determine the time to capture for stars and stellar remnants. We assume a range of initial inclination angles and semimajor axes for circular Keplerian prograde orbiters. Capture time strongly depends on the density and aspect ratio of the chosen disc model, the relative velocity of the stellar object with respect to the disc, and the AGN lifetime. We expect that for an AGN disc density $\rho \gtrsim 10^{-11}{\rm g\, cm^{-3}}$ and disc lifetime ≥1 Myr, there is a significant population of embedded stellar objects, which can fuel mergers detectable in gravitational waves with LIGO-Virgo and LISA.
  4. ABSTRACT We report on three redshift z > 2 quasars with dramatic changes in their C iv emission lines, the first sample of changing-look quasars (CLQs) at high redshift. This is also the first time the changing-look behaviour has been seen in a high-ionization emission line. SDSS J1205+3422, J1638+2827, and J2228 + 2201 show interesting behaviour in their observed optical light curves, and subsequent spectroscopy shows significant changes in the C iv broad emission line, with both line collapse and emergence being displayed on rest-frame time-scales of ∼240–1640 d. These are rapid changes, especially when considering virial black hole mass estimates of MBH > 109M⊙ for all three quasars. Continuum and emission line measurements from the three quasars show changes in the continuum-equivalent width plane with the CLQs seen to be on the edge of the full population distribution, and showing indications of an intrinsic Baldwin effect. We put these observations in context with recent state-change models, and note that even in their observed low-state, the C iv CLQs are generally above ∼5 per cent in Eddington luminosity.
  5. Abstract Since 2015 the gravitational-wave observations of LIGO and Virgo have transformed our understanding of compact-object binaries. In the years to come, ground-based gravitational-wave observatories such as LIGO, Virgo, and their successors will increase in sensitivity, discovering thousands of stellar-mass binaries. In the 2030s, the space-based LISA will provide gravitational-wave observations of massive black holes binaries. Between the $\sim 10$ ∼ 10 –10 3 Hz band of ground-based observatories and the $\sim 10^{-4}$ ∼ 1 0 − 4 –10 − 1 Hz band of LISA lies the uncharted decihertz gravitational-wave band. We propose a Decihertz Observatory to study this frequency range, and to complement observations made by other detectors. Decihertz observatories are well suited to observation of intermediate-mass ( $\sim 10^{2}$ ∼ 1 0 2 –10 4 M ⊙ ) black holes; they will be able to detect stellar-mass binaries days to years before they merge, providing early warning of nearby binary neutron star mergers and measurements of the eccentricity of binary black holes, and they will enable new tests of general relativity and the Standard Model of particle physics. Here we summarise how a Decihertz Observatory could provide unique insights into how black holes form and evolve across cosmic time,more »improve prospects for both multimessenger astronomy and multiband gravitational-wave astronomy, and enable new probes of gravity, particle physics and cosmology.« less
  6. Abstract In this paper, we continue our study on the evolution of black holes (BHs) that receive velocity kicks at the origin of their host star cluster potential. We now focus on BHs in rotating clusters that receive a range of kick velocities in different directions with respect to the rotation axis. We perform N-body simulations to calculate the trajectories of the kicked BHs and develop an analytic framework to study their motion as a function of the host cluster and the kick itself. Our simulations indicate that for a BH that is kicked outside of the cluster’s core, as its orbit decays in a rotating cluster the BH will quickly gain angular momentum as it interacts with stars with high rotational frequencies. Once the BH decays to the point where its orbital frequency equals that of local stars, its orbit will be circular and dynamical friction becomes ineffective since local stars will have low relative velocities. After circularization, the BH’s orbit decays on a longer time-scale than if the host cluster was not rotating. Hence BHs in rotating clusters will have longer orbital decay times. The time-scale for orbit circularization depends strongly on the cluster’s rotation rate and themore »initial kick velocity, with kicked BHs in slowly rotating clusters being able to decay into the core before circularization occurs. The implication of the circularization phase is that the probability of a BH undergoing a tidal capture event increases, possibly aiding in the formation of binaries and high-mass BHs.« less
  7. Abstract We present the results of a systematic search for quasars in the Catalina Real-time Transient Survey exhibiting both strong photometric and spectroscopic variability over a decadal baseline. We identify 111 sources with specific patterns of optical and mid-IR photometric behavior and a defined spectroscopic change. These “Changing-State” quasars (CSQs) form a higher luminosity sample to complement existing sets of “Changing-Look” AGN and quasars in the literature. The CSQs (by selection) exhibit larger photometric variability than the CLQs. The spectroscopic variability is marginally stronger in the CSQs than CLQs as defined by the change in Hβ/[O iii] ratio. We find 48 sources with declining Hβ flux, 63 sources with increasing Hβ flux and discover eight sources with z > 0.8, further extending the redshift arm. Our CSQ sample compares to the literature CLQ objects in similar distributions of Hβ flux ratios and differential Eddington ratios between high (bright) and low (dim) states. Taken as a whole, we find that this population of extreme varying quasars is associated with changes in the Eddington ratio and the timescales imply cooling/heating fronts propagating through the disk.