Hibernating black holes revealed by photometric mass functions

Casares, J.
Bibliographical reference

Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, Volume 473, Issue 4, p.5195-5209

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We present a novel strategy to uncover the Galactic population of quiescent black holes (BHs). This is based on a new concept, the photometric mass function (PMF), which opens up the possibility of an efficient identification of dynamical BHs in large fields-of-view. This exploits the width of the disc H α emission line, combined with orbital period information. We here show that H α widths can be recovered using a combination of customized H α filters. By setting a width cut-off at 2200 km s-1 we are able to cleanly remove other Galactic populations of H α emitters, including ∼99.9 per cent of cataclysmic variables (CVs). Only short-period (Porb <2.1 h) eclipsing CVs and AGNs will contaminate the sample but these can be easily flagged through photometric variability and, in the latter case, also mid-IR colours. We also describe the strategy of a deep (r = 22) Galactic plane survey based on the concept of PMFs: HAWKs, the HAlpha-Width Kilo-deg Survey. We estimate that ∼800 deg2 are required to unveil ∼50 new dynamical BHs, a three-fold improvement over the known population. For comparison, a century would be needed to produce an enlarged sample of 50 dynamical BHs from X-ray transients at the current discovery rate.
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