Gravitational self-lensing in populations of massive black hole binaries

The community may be on the verge of detecting low-frequency gravitational waves from massive black hole binaries (MBHBs), but no examples of binary active galactic nuclei (AGN) have been confirmed. Because MBHBs are intrinsically rare, the most promising detection methods utilize photometric data from all-sky surveys. Recently D'Orazio & Di Stefano 2018 (arXiv:1707.02335) suggested gravitational self-lensing as a method of detecting AGN in close separation binaries. In this study we calculate the detectability of lensing signatures in realistic populations of simulated MBHBs. Within our model assumptions, we find that VRO's LSST should be able to detect 10s to 100s of self-lensing binaries, with the rate uncertainty depending primarily on the orientation of AGN disks relative to their binary orbits. Roughly a quarter of lensing detectable systems should also show detectable Doppler boosting signatures. If AGN disks tend to be aligned with the orbit, lensing signatures are very nearly achromatic, while in misaligned configurations the bluer optical bands are lensed more than redder ones. Whether substantial obscuring material (e.g.~a dusty torus) will be present in close binaries remains uncertain, but our estimates suggest that a substantial fraction of systems would still be observable in this case.
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