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Title: Constraining sub-parsec binary supermassive black holes in quasars with multi-epoch spectroscopy. II. The population with kinematically offset broad Balmer emission lines

A small fraction of quasars have long been known to show bulk velocity offsets (of a few hundred to thousands of km s{sup –1}) in the broad Balmer lines with respect to the systemic redshift of the host galaxy. Models to explain these offsets usually invoke broad-line region gas kinematics/asymmetry around single black holes (BHs), orbital motion of massive (∼sub-parsec (sub-pc)) binary black holes (BBHs), or recoil BHs, but single-epoch spectra are unable to distinguish between these scenarios. The line-of-sight (LOS) radial velocity (RV) shifts from long-term spectroscopic monitoring can be used to test the BBH hypothesis. We have selected a sample of 399 quasars with kinematically offset broad Hβ lines from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) Seventh Data Release quasar catalog, and have conducted second-epoch optical spectroscopy for 50 of them. Combined with the existing SDSS spectra, the new observations enable us to constrain the LOS RV shifts of broad Hβ lines with a rest-frame baseline of a few years to nearly a decade. While previous work focused on objects with extreme velocity offset (>10{sup 3} km s{sup –1}), we explore the parameter space with smaller (a few hundred km s{sup –1}) yet significant offsets (99.7% confidence). Usingmore » cross-correlation analysis, we detect significant (99% confidence) radial accelerations in the broad Hβ lines in 24 of the 50 objects, of ∼10-200 km s{sup –1} yr{sup –1} with a median measurement uncertainty of ∼10 km s{sup –1} yr{sup –1}, implying a high fraction of variability of the broad-line velocity on multi-year timescales. We suggest that 9 of the 24 detections are sub-pc BBH candidates, which show consistent velocity shifts independently measured from a second broad line (either Hα or Mg II) without significant changes in the broad-line profiles. Combining the results on the general quasar population studied in Paper I, we find a tentative anti-correlation between the velocity offset in the first-epoch spectrum and the average acceleration between two epochs, which could be explained by orbital phase modulation when the time separation between two epochs is a non-negligible fraction of the orbital period of the motion causing the line displacement. We discuss the implications of our results for the identification of sub-pc BBH candidates in offset-line quasars and for the constraints on their frequency and orbital parameters.« less
Authors:
 [1] ;  [2] ;  [3] ;  [4] ;  [5]
  1. Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of California, Los Angeles, CA 90095 (United States)
  2. Carnegie Observatories, 813 Santa Barbara Street, Pasadena, CA 91101 (United States)
  3. Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics, Australian National University, Canberra, ACT 2611 (Australia)
  4. Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, 60 Garden Street, Cambridge, MA 02138 (United States)
  5. Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, NJ 08540 (United States)
Publication Date:
OSTI Identifier:
22365676
Resource Type:
Journal Article
Resource Relation:
Journal Name: Astrophysical Journal; Journal Volume: 789; Journal Issue: 2; Other Information: Country of input: International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
79 ASTROPHYSICS, COSMOLOGY AND ASTRONOMY; ACCELERATION; ASYMMETRY; BALMER LINES; BINARY STARS; BLACK HOLES; CATALOGS; CORRELATIONS; DETECTION; EMISSION; GALAXIES; GALAXY NUCLEI; HYPOTHESIS; QUASARS; RADIAL VELOCITY; RED SHIFT; SKY; SPECTRA; SPECTROSCOPY