Optical variability of intermediate-mass black holes and implications for their identification

Oct 07, 2022 - 10:40 am to 11:30 am

SLAC, Kavli 3rd Floor Conf. Room

Colin Burke (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) via zoom https://stanford.zoom.us/j/550904854

Zoom info: https://stanford.zoom.us/j/550904854

Optical variability is a novel probe of accreting intermediate-mass black hole (IMBH) candidates in dwarf galaxies. In this talk, I will show our recent results demonstrating the characteristic “damping” timescale of AGN optical light curves correlates strongly with the mass of the black hole. Extension to stellar-mass accretion disks suggests the interpretation may be universal, and could be a powerful new tool for identifying the elusive population of accreting IMBHs. To that end, we have developed a forward model to constrain the local black hole mass function (BHMF) using optical variability with Rubin Observatory. The ultimate goal is that this relic BHMF, when probed in the IMBH regime, will reveal the signature of how supermassive black holes were seeded at high redshifts.