Fe K line: A tool to probe massive binary black holes in Active Galactic Nuclei?
Princeton University Observatory, Peyton Hall, Princeton, NJ 08544-1001, USA e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
2 Center for Astrophysics, University of Science and Technology of China, Hefei, Anhui 230026, PR China
Corresponding author: Youjun Lu, email@example.com
Accepted: 20 July 2001
Since many or most galaxies have central massive black holes (BHs), mergers of galaxies can form massive binary black holes (BBHs). It is possible that some BBHs exist in active galactic nuclei (AGNs). We argue that each BH may be surrounded by an accretion disc with a different inclination angle to the line of sight (due to different BH spin directions and the Bardeen-Petterson effect). The observed Fe Kα line profile from a BBH system is a combination of the lines from the inner regions of the two discs, which is significantly affected by the inclination angles of the two discs. The Fe Kα line profile associated with BBHs may have an unusual shape with double or more peaks as well as short-term variability (e.g. ~104 s), which can be distinguished from the Fe Kα line properties of some other possible models. The precession of the two discs could introduce two un-related quasi-periodic signals in the X-ray continuum emission, which would be useful to constrain both of the BH masses. We suggest that with the improvement of resolution in X-ray astronomy, Fe Kα line profiles be a potential tool to probe the existence of massive BBHs in AGNs. The Fe Kα line profile associated with BBHs may also provide a tool to investigate the dynamics in strong gravitation field (e.g. providing evidence of the Bardeen-Petterson effect).
Key words: black hole physics / accretion, accretion disks / line: profiles / galaxies: active
© ESO, 2001