skip to main content

Title: Have hierarchical three-body mergers been detected by LIGO/Virgo?
Abstract One of the proposed channels of binary black hole mergers involves dynamical interactions of three black holes. In such scenarios, it is possible that all three black holes merge in a so-called hierarchical merger chain, where two of the black holes merge first and then their remnant subsequently merges with the remaining single black hole. Depending on the dynamical environment, it is possible that both mergers will appear within the observable time window. Here we perform a search for such merger pairs in the public available LIGO and Virgo data from the O1/O2 runs. Using a frequentist p-value assignment statistics we do not find any significant merger pair candidates, the most significant being GW170809-GW151012 pair. Assuming no observed candidates in O3/O4, we derive upper limits on merger pairs to be ∼11 − 110 year−1Gpc−3, corresponding to a rate that relative to the total merger rate is ∼0.1 − 1.0. From this we argue that both a detection and a non-detection within the next few years can be used to put useful constraints on some dynamical progenitor models.
; ; ; ; ; ;
Award ID(s):
Publication Date:
Journal Name:
Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society: Letters
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Abstract The population of binary black hole mergers identified through gravitational waves has uncovered unexpected features in the intrinsic properties of black holes in the universe. One particularly surprising and exciting result is the possible existence of black holes in the pair-instability mass gap, ∼50–120 M ⊙ . Dense stellar environments can populate this region of mass space through hierarchical mergers, with the retention efficiency of black hole merger products strongly dependent on the escape velocity of the host environment. We use simple toy models to represent hierarchical merger scenarios in various dynamical environments. We find that hierarchical mergers in environments with high escape velocities (≳300 km s −1 ) are efficiently retained. If such environments dominate the binary black hole merger rate, this would lead to an abundance of high-mass mergers that is potentially incompatible with the empirical mass spectrum from the current catalog of binary black hole mergers. Models that efficiently generate hierarchical mergers, and contribute significantly to the observed population, must therefore be tuned to avoid a “cluster catastrophe” of overproducing binary black hole mergers within and above the pair-instability mass gap.

    In this work, we establish and test methods for implementing dynamical friction (DF) for massive black hole pairs that form in large volume cosmological hydrodynamical simulations that include galaxy formation and black hole growth. We verify our models and parameters both for individual black hole dynamics and for the black hole population in cosmological volumes. Using our model of DF from collisionless particles, black holes can effectively sink close to the galaxy centre, provided that the black hole’s dynamical mass is at least twice that of the lowest mass resolution particles in the simulation. Gas drag also plays a role in assisting the black holes’ orbital decay, but it is typically less effective than that from collisionless particles, especially after the first billion years of the black hole’s evolution. DF from gas becomes less than $1{{\ \rm per\ cent}}$ of DF from collisionless particles for BH masses >107 M⊙. Using our best DF model, we calculate the merger rate down to z = 1.1 using an Lbox = 35 Mpc h−1 simulation box. We predict ∼2 mergers per year for z > 1.1 peaking at z ∼ 2. These merger rates are within the range obtained in previous work using similar resolution hydrodynamical simulations.more »We show that the rate is enhanced by factor of ∼2 when DF is taken into account in the simulations compared to the no-DF run. This is due to ${\gt}40{{\ \rm per\ cent}}$ more black holes reaching the centre of their host halo when DF is added.

    « less

    Supermassive black holes (SMBHs) merging in dwarf galaxies will be detectable by the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA) in the mid-2030s. Previous cosmological hydrodynamic simulations have shown the prediction of massive BHs merging in dwarf galaxies, but these simulations are limited by their resolution and cannot follow BH pairs all the way to coalescence. We calculate the delay time between BH pairing and merger based on the properties of the BHs and their host galaxies, and use these properties to calculate gravitational wave strains for eleven different binary BHs that merge inside dwarf galaxies from eight cosmological simulations. This delay time calculation accounts for dynamical friction due to gas and stars, loss-cone scattering, and hardening of the binary due to gravitational radiation. Out of the eleven BH mergers in the simulations, five BH pairs will merge within 0.8–8 Gyr of forming a close pair and could be observed by LISA, and the remaining six are unresolved due to resolution limitations of the simulation. As all five of the resolved close pairs merge within a Hubble time, we make the broad estimate that close SMBH pairs in dwarf galaxies will merge and be detectable by LISA, but this estimate depends onmore »either the presence of gas during orbital decay or a solution to the dynamical buoyancy problem in cored potentials.

    « less

    We examine massive black hole (MBH) mergers and their associated gravitational wave signals from the large-volume cosmological simulation Astrid . Astrid includes galaxy formation and black hole models recently updated with an MBH seed population between 3 × 104h−1M⊙ and 3 × 105h−1M⊙ and a sub-grid dynamical friction (DF) model to follow the MBH dynamics down to 1.5 ckpc h−1. We calculate the initial eccentricities of MBH orbits directly from the simulation at kpc-scales, and find orbital eccentricities above 0.7 for most MBH pairs before the numerical merger. After approximating unresolved evolution on scales below ${\sim 200\, \text{pc}}$, we find that the in-simulation DF on large scales accounts for more than half of the total orbital decay time ($\sim 500\, \text{Myr}$) due to DF. The binary hardening time is an order of magnitude longer than the DF time, especially for the seed-mass binaries (MBH < 2Mseed). As a result, only $\lesssim 20{{\rm per \,cent}}$ of seed MBH pairs merge at z > 3 after considering both unresolved DF evolution and binary hardening. These z > 3 seed-mass mergers are hosted in a biased population of galaxies with the highest stellar masses of $\gt 10^9\, {\rm M}_\odot$. With the higher initial eccentricity prediction from Astrid , we estimate anmore »expected merger rate of 0.3−0.7 per year from the z > 3 MBH population. This is a factor of ∼7 higher than the prediction using the circular orbit assumption. The Laser Interferometer Space Antenna events are expected at a similar rate, and comprise $\gtrsim 60\,{\rm{per\,cent}}$ seed-seed mergers, $\sim 30\,{\rm{per\,cent}}$ involving only one seed-mass MBH, and $\sim 10\,{\rm{per\,cent}}$ mergers of non-seed MBHs.

    « less
  5. All ten LIGO/Virgo binary black hole (BH-BH) coalescences reported following the O1/O2 runs have near-zero effective spins. There are only three potential explanations for this. If the BH spin magnitudes are large, then: (i) either both BH spin vectors must be nearly in the orbital plane or (ii) the spin angular momenta of the BHs must be oppositely directed and similar in magnitude. Then there is also the possibility that (iii) the BH spin magnitudes are small. We consider the third hypothesis within the framework of the classical isolated binary evolution scenario of the BH-BH merger formation. We test three models of angular momentum transport in massive stars: a mildly efficient transport by meridional currents (as employed in the Geneva code), an efficient transport by the Tayler-Spruit magnetic dynamo (as implemented in the MESA code), and a very-efficient transport (as proposed by Fuller et al.) to calculate natal BH spins. We allow for binary evolution to increase the BH spins through accretion and account for the potential spin-up of stars through tidal interactions. Additionally, we update the calculations of the stellar-origin BH masses, including revisions to the history of star formation and to the chemical evolution across cosmic time. Wemore »find that we can simultaneously match the observed BH-BH merger rate density and BH masses and BH-BH effective spins. Models with efficient angular momentum transport are favored. The updated stellar-mass weighted gas-phase metallicity evolution now used in our models appears to be key for obtaining an improved reproduction of the LIGO/Virgo merger rate estimate. Mass losses during the pair-instability pulsation supernova phase are likely to be overestimated if the merger GW170729 hosts a BH more massive than 50  M ⊙ . We also estimate rates of black hole-neutron star (BH-NS) mergers from recent LIGO/Virgo observations. If, in fact. angular momentum transport in massive stars is efficient, then any (electromagnetic or gravitational wave) observation of a rapidly spinning BH would indicate either a very effective tidal spin up of the progenitor star (homogeneous evolution, high-mass X-ray binary formation through case A mass transfer, or a spin- up of a Wolf-Rayet star in a close binary by a close companion), significant mass accretion by the hole, or a BH formation through the merger of two or more BHs (in a dense stellar cluster).« less