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Advances in Astronomy
Volume 2012, Article ID 940568, 14 pages
Review Article

Massive Black Hole Binaries: Dynamical Evolution and Observational Signatures

1Dipartimento di Fisica G. Occhialini, Università di Milano Bicocca, Piazza della Scienza 3, 20126 Milano, Italy
2Galaxy and Cosmology Department, Max-Planck-Institut für Gravitationsphysik, Albert Einstein Institut, 14476 Golm, Germany
3Max-Planck-Institut für Astronomie, Königstuhl 17, 69117 Heidelberg, Germany

Received 18 August 2011; Accepted 13 October 2011

Academic Editor: Francesco Shankar

Copyright © 2012 M. Dotti et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


The study of the dynamical evolution of massive black hole pairs in mergers is crucial in the context of a hierarchical galaxy formation scenario. The timescales for the formation and the coalescence of black hole binaries are still poorly constrained, resulting in large uncertainties in the expected rate of massive black hole binaries detectable in the electromagnetic and gravitational wave spectra. Here, we review the current theoretical understanding of the black hole pairing in galaxy mergers, with a particular attention to recent developments and open issues. We conclude with a review of the expected observational signatures of massive binaries and of the candidates discussed in literature to date.