A VLBA Search for Binary Black Holes in Active Galactic Nuclei with Double-peaked Optical Emission Line Spectra
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We have examined a subset of 11 active galactic nuclei (AGNs) drawn from a sample of 87 objects that possess double-peaked optical emission line spectra, as put forward by Wang et al. and are detectable in the Faint Images of the Radio Sky at Twenty-centimeters (FIRST) survey at radio wavelengths. The double-peaked nature of the optical emission line spectra has been suggested as evidence for the existence of binary black holes in these AGNs, although this interpretation is controversial. We make a simple suggestion that direct evidence of binary black holes in these objects could be searched for in the form of dual sources of compact radio emission associated with the AGNs. To explore this idea, we have used the Very Long Baseline Array to observe these 11 objects from the Wang et al. sample. Of the 11 objects, we detect compact radio emission from two, SDSS J151709 + 335324 and SDSS J160024 + 264035. Both objects show single components of compact radio emission. The morphology of SDSS J151709 + 335324 is consistent with a recent comprehensive multi-wavelength study of this object by Rosario et al. Assuming that the entire sample consists of binary black holes, we would expect of order one double radio core to be detected, based on radio wavelength detection rates from FIRST and very long baseline interferometry surveys. We have not detected any double cores, thus this work does not substantially support the idea that AGNs with double-peaked optical emission lines contain binary black holes. However, the study of larger samples should be undertaken to provide a more secure statistical result, given the estimated detection rates.
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