Supermassive black holes in a star-forming gaseous circumnuclear disk

L. Del Valle, A. Escala, C. Maureira-Fredes, J. Molina, J. Cuadra, P. Amaro-Seoane

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Using N-body/smoothed particle hydrodynamics simulations we study the evolution of the separation of a pair of supermassive black holes (SMBHs) embedded in a star-forming circumnuclear disk (CND). This type of disk is expected to be formed in the central kiloparsec of the remnant of gas-rich galaxy mergers. Our simulations indicate that orbital decay of the SMBHs occurs more quickly when the mean density of the CND is higher, due to increased dynamical friction. However, in simulations where the CND is fragmented in high-density gaseous clumps (clumpy CND), the orbits of the SMBHs are erratically perturbed by the gravitational interaction with these clumps, delaying, in some cases, the orbital decay of the SMBHs. The densities of these gaseous clumps in our simulations and in recent studies of clumpy CNDs are two orders of magnitude higher than the observed density of molecular clouds in isolated galaxies or ultraluminous infrared galaxies (ULIRGs), thus, we expect that SMBH orbits are perturbed less in real CNDs than in the simulated CNDs of this study and other recent studies. We also find that the migration timescale has a weak dependence on the star formation rate of the CND. Furthermore, the migration timescale of an SMBH pair in a star-forming clumpy CND is at most a factor of three longer than the migration timescale of a pair of SMBHs in a CND modeled with more simple gas physics. Therefore, we estimate that the migration timescale of the SMBHs in a clumpy CND is on the order of 107 years.

Original languageEnglish
Article number59
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - 20 Sep 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • black hole physics
  • galaxies: ISM
  • galaxies: nuclei
  • hydrodynamics
  • methods: numerical


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