Wandering Black Hole Candidates in Dwarf Galaxies at VLBI Resolution

Andrew J. Sargent, Megan C. Johnson, Amy E. Reines, Nathan J. Secrest, Alexander J. Van Der Horst, Phil J. Cigan, Jeremy Darling, Jenny E. Greene

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Thirteen dwarf galaxies have recently been found to host radio-selected accreting massive black hole (MBH) candidates, some of which are "wandering"in the outskirts of their hosts. We present 9 GHz Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA) observations of these sources at milliarcsecond resolution. Our observations have beam solid angles ∼104 times smaller than the previous Very Large Array (VLA) observations at 9 GHz, with comparable point-source sensitivities. We detect milliarcsecond-scale radio sources at the positions of the four VLA sources most distant from the photocenters of their associated dwarf galaxies. These sources have brightness temperatures of >106 K, consistent with active galactic nuclei (AGNs), but the significance of their preferential location at large distances (p-value = 0.0014) favors a background AGN interpretation. The VLBA nondetections toward the other nine galaxies indicate that the VLA sources are resolved out on scales of tens of milliarcseconds, requiring extended radio emission and lower brightness temperatures consistent with either star formation or radio lobes associated with AGN activity. We explore the star formation explanation by calculating the expected radio emission for these nine VLBA nondetections, finding that about five have VLA luminosities that are inconsistent with this scenario. Of the remaining four, two are associated with spectroscopically confirmed AGNs that are consistent with being located at their galaxy photocenters. There are therefore between five and seven wandering MBH candidates out of the 13 galaxies we observed, although we cannot rule out background AGNs for five of them with the data in hand.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number160
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Volume933
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 1 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science

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