Evidence for microlensing by primordial black holes in quasar broad emission lines
With the detection of black hole mergers by the LIGO gravitational wave telescope, there has been increasing interest in the possibility that dark matter may be in the form of solar mass primordial black holes. One of the predictions implicit in this idea is that compact clouds in the broad emission line regions of high redshift quasars will be microlensed, leading to changes in line structure and the appearance of new emission features. In this paper the effect of microlensing on the broad emission line region is reviewed by reference to gravitationally lensed quasar systems where microlensing of the emission lines can be unambiguously identified. It is then shown that although changes in Seyfert galaxy line profiles occur on timescales of a few years, they are too nearby for a significant chance that they could be microlensed, and are plausibly attributed to intrinsic changes in line structure. In contrast, in a sample of 53 high redshift quasars, 9 quasars show large changes in line profile at a rate consistent with microlensing. These changes occur on a timescale an order of magnitude too short for changes associated with the dynamics of the emission line region. The main conclusion of the paper is that the observed changes in quasar emission line profiles are consistent with microlensing by a population of solar mass compact bodies making up the dark matter, although other explanations like intrinsic variability are possible. Such bodies are most plausibly identified as primordial black holes.