Measuring the Properties of Active Galactic Nuclei Disks with Gravitational Waves

Avi Vajpeyi, Eric Thrane, Rory Smith, Barry McKernan, K. E. Saavik Ford

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13 Citations (Scopus)

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.

Original languageEnglish
Article number82
Number of pages8
JournalThe Astrophysical Journal
Volume931
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2022

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