Gaseous circumbinary accretion discs provide a promising mechanism to facilitate the mergers of supermassive black holes (SMBHs) in galactic nuclei. We measure the torques exerted on accreting SMBH binaries, using 2D, isothermal, moving-mesh, viscous hydrodynamical simulations of circumbinary accretion discs. Our computational domain includes the entire inner region of the circumbinary disk with the individual black holes (BHs) included as point masses on the grid and a sink prescription to model accretion onto each BH. The BHs each acquire their own well-resolved accretion discs (“minidiscs”). We explore a range of mass removal rates for the sink prescription removing gas from the central regions of the minidiscs. We find that the torque exerted on the binary is primarily gravitational, and dominated by the gas orbiting close behind and ahead of the individual BHs. The torques from the distorted circumbinary disc farther out and from the direct accretion of angular momentum are subdominant. The torques are sensitive to the sink prescription: slower sinks result in more gas accumulating near the BHs and more negative torques, driving the binary to merger more rapidly. For faster sinks, the torques are less negative and eventually turn positive (for unphysically fast sinks). When the minidiscs are modeled as standard alpha discs, our results are insensitive to the choice of sink radius. Scaling the simulations to a binary orbital period tbin = 1yr and background disc accretion rate Mdot = 0.3MEdd in Eddington units, the binary inspirals on a timescale of 3X10^6 years, irrespective of the SMBH masses. For binaries with total mass <10^7Msun, this is shorter than the inspiral time due to gravitational wave (GW) emission alone, implying that gas discs will have a significant impact on the SMBH binary population and can affect the GW signal for Pulsar Timing Arrays.
Y. Tang, A. MacFadyen and Z. Haiman
Tue, 14 Mar 17