Physics and Astronomy Publications
THE BINARY BLACK HOLE MODEL for MRK 231 BITES the DUST
URL with Digital Object Identifier
Mrk 231 is a nearby quasar with an unusually red near-UV-to-optical continuum, generally explained as heavy reddening by dust. Yan et al. proposed that Mrk 231 is a milliparsec black hole binary with little intrinsic reddening. We show that if the observed FUV continuum is intrinsic, as assumed by Yan et al., it fails by a factor of about 100 in powering the observed strength of the near-infrared emission lines and the thermal near and mid-infrared continuum. In contrast, the line and continuum strengths are typical for a reddened AGN spectral energy distribution (SED). We find that the He i∗/Pβ ratio is sensitive to the SED for a one-zone model. If this sensitivity is maintained in general broadline region models, then this ratio may prove a useful diagnostic for heavily reddened quasars. Analysis of archival Hubble Space Telescope STIS and Faint Object Camera data revealed evidence that the far-UV continuum emission is resolved on size scales of ∼40 pc. The lack of broad absorption lines in the far-UV continuum might be explained if it were not coincident with the central engine. One possibility is that it is the central engine continuum reflected from the receding wind on the far side of the quasar.