Intermediate-mass black holes (IMBHs) have masses between 102 and 106 M☉ and are key to our understanding of the formation of massive black holes. The known population of IMBHs remains small, with a few hundred candidates and only a handful of them confirmed as bona fide IMBHs. Until now, the most widely used selection method is based on spectral analysis. Here we present a methodology to select IMBH candidates via optical variability analysis of the nuclear region of local galaxies ( $z\leqslant 0.35$ ). Active IMBHs accreting at low rates show small amplitude variability with timescales of hours, as is seen in one of the known IMBHs, NGC 4395. We found a sample of ∼500 galaxies demonstrating fast and small amplitude variation in their week-based light curves. We estimate an average occupancy fraction of 4% and a surface density of ∼3 deg−2, which represent an increase by a factor of ∼40 compared to previous searches. A large fraction (78%) of the candidates are in spiral galaxies. We preliminarily confirm the active galactic nucleus nature of 22 sources via Baldwin, Phillips, and Terlevich diagrams using Sloan Digital Sky Survey legacy spectra. Further confirmation of these candidates will require multiwavelength observations, especially in X-ray and radio bands.
The Astrophysical Journal
- Pub Date:
- February 2020
- Astrophysics - Astrophysics of Galaxies;
- Astrophysics - Instrumentation and Methods for Astrophysics
- 16 pages (including Appendix), 15 figures