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  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 Sky 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 Dopplermore »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 Periodically variable quasars have been suggested as close binary supermassive black holes. We present a systematic search for periodic light curves in 625 spectroscopically confirmed quasars with a median redshift of 1.8 in a 4.6 deg2 overlapping region of the Dark Energy Survey Supernova (DES-SN) fields and the Sloan Digital Sky Survey Stripe 82 (SDSS-S82). Our sample has a unique 20-year long multi-color (griz) light curve enabled by combining DES-SN Y6 observations with archival SDSS-S82 data. The deep imaging allows us to search for periodic light curves in less luminous quasars (down to r ∼23.5 mag) powered by less massive black holes (with masses ≳ 108.5M⊙) at high redshift for the first time. We find five candidates with significant (at >99.74% single-frequency significance in at least two bands with a global p-value of ∼7 × 10−4–3× 10−3 accounting for the look-elsewhere effect) periodicity with observed periods of ∼3–5 years (i.e., 1–2 years in rest frame) having ∼4–6 cycles spanned by the observations. If all five candidates are periodically variable quasars, this translates into a detection rate of ${\sim }0.8^{+0.5}_{-0.3}$% or ${\sim }1.1^{+0.7}_{-0.5}$ quasar per deg2. Our detection rate is 4–80 times larger than those found by previous searches using shallower surveys over largermore »areas. This discrepancy is likely caused by differences in the quasar populations probed and the survey data qualities. We discuss implications on the future direct detection of low-frequency gravitational waves. Continued photometric monitoring will further assess the robustness and characteristics of these candidate periodic quasars to determine their physical origins.« less