The Dynamics and Evolution of Supermassive Black Holes in Merging Galaxies

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The Dynamics and Evolution of Supermassive Black Holes in Merging Galaxies

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Title: The Dynamics and Evolution of Supermassive Black Holes in Merging Galaxies
Author: Blecha, Laura Elizabeth
Citation: Blecha, Laura Elizabeth. 2012. The Dynamics and Evolution of Supermassive Black Holes in Merging Galaxies. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University.
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Abstract: This thesis is a theoretical study of supermassive black holes (SMBHs) in merging galaxies. We consider the dynamics that govern inspiralling SMBH pairs and gravitational-wave (GW) recoiling SMBHs, as well as the fueling of active galactic nuclei (AGN) during galaxy mergers. In particular, we focus on the observable signatures that could distinguish dual or recoiling AGN from those in isolated galaxies, and we explore the implications of these events for the coordinated evolution of SMBHs and galaxies. In the second and third chapters, semi-analytical models for GW-recoiling SMBHs are developed. The second chapter illustrates that bound recoiling SMBHs may have long wandering timescales and that recoil events can self-regulate SMBH growth. In the third chapter, we study the evolution of recoiling SMBHs in evolving, gaseous merger remnants. We find that the presence of gas greatly influences recoiling SMBH trajectories and may partially suppress even large recoil kicks in some cases. We also show that kinematically- and spatially-offset AGN can have substantial lifetimes for a wide range in kick speeds. Finally, this chapter illustrates that GW recoil influences the observed SMBH-galaxy relations as well as central star formation in the merger remnant. In the fourth chapter we turn our attention to inspiralling SMBH pairs with kiloparsec-scale separations. We use a novel approach to model the narrow-line emission from these SMBH pairs, in order to understand their relationship to observations of double-peaked narrow-line AGN. Our results indicate that double-peaked narrow-line AGN often arise from gas kinematics rather than from dual SMBH motion, but that the latter are a generic, short-lived phase of SMBH inspiral in gaseous mergers. We identify several diagnostics that could aid in distinguishing the true AGN pairs in the double-peaked sample. Finally, the fifth chapter examines a particular galaxy that exhibits signatures of both a recoiling AGN and an AGN pair. Applying methods developed throughout this thesis, we design models for both scenarios that are well-matched to the available data. Currently, neither possibility can be excluded for this object, but our models constrain the most relevant parameters for etermining its nature and for the design of future observations.
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