Project B10;     (2010 - 2014)

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Electromagnetic Counterparts to Supermassive Black Hole Mergers

    Principal Investigators: Luciano Rezzolla, Pau Amaro-Seoane

Merging supermassive black holes (SMBHs) are possibly the strongest gravitational waves (GWs) sources and important candidates for future space-borne gravitational-wave observatories of the LISA (Laser Interferometer Space Antenna) type. If the gravitational-wave (GW) information can be combined with the corresponding electromagnetic (EM) one, then the simultaneous EM and GW observation would have enormous consequences and open completely new scientific opportunities in astrophysics, cosmology and fundamental physics. The purpose of this project is to investigate whether these links between EM and GW signals are possible, to determine their realistic impact on the physics of binary BHs and thus to take the first steps towards a multi-messenger GW astronomy.

This project provides improved numerical models for studying astrophysical scenarios which could be of interest for multi-messenger astronomy. In particular, we focused on the study of the last few orbits and merger of two supermassive black holes immersed in a low density magnetised environment. To this purpose, we developed a novel numerical approach to imposing the force-free (FF) approximation for studying the magnetosphere of black holes embedded in a force-free plasma threaded by a uniform magnetic field, and a covariant, conformal and traceless Einstein system, which leads to lower constraint violations during the numerical evolution of binary compact objects.

Dual jets can be produced during the inspiral and merger of supermassive black holes when these are immersed in a force-free plasma threaded by a uniform magnetic field. We performed calculations of the late inspiral and merger, and show that a dual-jet structure is present but energetically subdominant with respect to a non-collimated and predominantly quadrupolar emission, which is similar to the one computed when the binary is in electrovacuum.

We study in detail the three-dimensional charge distribution produced as a consequence of the inspiral and show that during the inspiral it possesses a complex but ordered structure which traces the motion of the two black holes. Our quantitative estimates of the scaling of the electromagnetic emission with frequency, indicate that the diffused part has a dependence that is the same as the gravitational-wave one, while the collimated one EM has a steeper dependence. These results set serious restrictions on the detectability of dual jets from coalescing binaries, but they also indicate an increased chance of detecting an EM counterpart from these systems. Further steps are necessary for more accurate estimates.

Large-scale 3D distribution of the charge density for a spinning binary black hole system in the early inspiral phase (left panel), at the merger (middle panel) and at ringdown (right panel).

3D distribution of the charge density at ringdown only. Starting from the left, the panels show smaller and smaller values of the charge density, revealing a much more extended conical-shaped structure with a double-helical distribution of opposite charges.


  Pau Amaro-Seoane   PostDoc, PI 2010
  Luciano Rezzolla   Professor, PI 2010
  Daniela Alic   PostDoc, 2011
  Patrick Brem   PhD student, 2012
  Xian Chen   PostDoc, 2013
  Cristian Maureira   PhD student, 2012

Former Associates
  Olindo Zanotti   PostDoc, 2010-2011
  Constanze Roedig   Student, 2010-2012


[1] Rapid Eccentricity Oscillations and the Mergers of Compact Objects in Hierarchical Triples
J. M. Antognini, B. J. Shappee, T. A. Thompson, P. Amaro-Seoane, MNRAS 439, 1079-1091 (2014)

[2] Sowing the Seeds of Massive Black Holes in Small Galaxies: Young Clusters as the Building Blocks of Ultracompact Dwarf Galaxies
P. Amaro-Seoane, S. Konstantinidis, M. Dewi Freitag, C. M. Miller, F. A. Rasio, ApJ 782, 97 (2014)

[3] Blocking low-eccentricity EMRIs: A statistical direct-summation N-body study of the Schwarzschild barrier
P. Brem, P. Amaro-Seoane, C. F. Sopuerta, MNRAS 437, 1259-1267 (2014)

[4] A rapid evolving region in the Galactic Center: Why S-stars thermalize and more massive stars are missing
X. Chen, P. Amaro-Seoane, submitted 2014

[5] The fragmenting past of the disk at the Galactic Center : The culprit for the missing red giants
P. Amaro-Seoane, X. Chen, ApJ 781, L18 (2014)

[6] Mergers of multimetallic globular clusters: the role of dynamics
P. Amaro-Seoane, S. Konstantinidis, P. Brem, M. Catelan, MNRAS 435, 809-821 (2013)

[7] Relativistic mergers of compact binaries in clusters: The fingerprint of the spin
P. Brem, P. Amaro-Seoane, R. Spurzem, MNRAS 434, 2999-3007 (2013)

[8] Investigating the retention of intermediate-mass black holes in star clusters using N-body simulations
S. Konstantinidis, P. Amaro-Seoane, K. D. Kokkotas, Astronomy and Astrophysics 557, A135, 8 (2013)

[9] Disruption of a Red Giant Star by a Supermassive Black Hole and the Case of PS1-10jh
T. Bogdanovic, R. M. Cheng, P. Amaro-Seoane, submitted to ApJ (2013)

[10] eLISA: Astrophysics and cosmology in the millihertz regime
P. Amaro-Seoane, S. Aoudia, S. Babak et al., GW Notes 6, 4-110 (2013)

[11] Can a satellite galaxy merger explain the active past of the Galactic Centre?
M. Lang, K. Holley-Bockelmann, T. Bogdanovic, P. Amaro-Seoane, A. Sesana, M. Sinha, MNRAS 430, 2574-2584 (2013)

[12] The role of the supermassive black hole spin in the estimation of the EMRI event rate
P. Amaro-Seoane, C. F. Sopuerta, M. D. Freitag, MNRAS 429, 3155-3165 (2013)

[13] Tidal disruptions in circumbinary discs (I): Star formation, dynamics, and binary evolution
P. Amaro-Seoane, P. Brem, J. Cuadra, ApJ 764, 14 (2013)

[14] On the detectability of dual jets from binary black holes
P. Moesta, D. Alic, L. Rezzolla, O. Zanotti, C. Palenzuela, ApJ 749, L32 (2012)

[15] Accurate Simulations of Binary Black-Hole Mergers in Force-Free Electrodynamics
D. Alic, P. Moesta, L. Rezzolla, O. Zanotti, J. L. Jaramillo, ApJ 754, 36 (2012)

[16] Conformal and covariant formulation of the Z4 system with constraint-violation damping
D. Alic, C. Bona-Casas, C. Bona, L. Rezzolla, C. Palenzuela, Phys. Rev. D 85, 064040 (2012)

[17] General relativistic radiation hydrodynamics of accretion flows: II. Treating stiff source terms and exploring physical limitations
C. Roedig, O. Zanotti, D. Alic, MNRAS 426, 1613 (2012)

[18] Fake plunges are very eccentric real EMRIs in disguise ... they dominate the rates and are blissfully ignorant of angular momentum barriers
P. Amaro-Seoane, C. Sopuerta, P. Brem, European Physical Journal Web of Conferences 39, 7001 (2012)

[19] Evolution of binary black holes in self gravitating discs. Dissecting the torques
C. Roedig, A. Sesana, M. Dotti, J. Cuadra, P. Amaro-Seoane, F. Haardt, AAP 545, A127 (2012)

[20] Low-frequency gravitational-wave science with eLISA/NGO
P. Amaro-Seoane, S. Aoudia, S. Babak et al., Classical and Quantum Gravity 29, 12, 124016 (2012)

[21] Stellar dynamics and extreme-mass ratio inspirals
P. Amaro-Seoane, Living Reviews in Relativity (2012)

[22] The butterfly effect in the extreme-mass ratio inspiral problem
P. Amaro-Seoane, P. Brem, J. Cuadra, P. J. Armitage, ApJ 744, L20 (2012)

[23] General relativistic radiation hydrodynamics of accretion flows. I: Bondi-Hoyle accretion
O. Zanotti, C. Roedig, L. Rezzolla, L. D. Zanna, MNRAS 417, 2899 (2011)

[24] EM counterparts of recoiling black holes: general relativistic simulations of non-Keplerian discs
O. Zanotti, L. Rezzolla, L. D. Zanna, C. Palenzuela, Astronomy and Astrophysics 523, A8, 16 (2010)