skip to main content

Title: Implications of Eccentric Observations on Binary Black Hole Formation Channels
Abstract Orbital eccentricity is one of the most robust discriminators for distinguishing between dynamical and isolated formation scenarios of binary black hole mergers using gravitational-wave observatories such as LIGO and Virgo. Using state-of-the-art cluster models, we show how selection effects impact the detectable distribution of eccentric mergers from clusters. We show that the observation (or lack thereof) of eccentric binary black hole mergers can significantly constrain the fraction of detectable systems that originate from dynamical environments, such as dense star clusters. After roughly 150 observations, observing no eccentric binary signals would indicate that clusters cannot make up the majority of the merging binary black hole population in the local universe (95% credibility). However, if dense star clusters dominate the rate of eccentric mergers and a single system is confirmed to be measurably eccentric in the first and second gravitational-wave transient catalogs, clusters must account for at least 14% of detectable binary black hole mergers. The constraints on the fraction of detectable systems from dense star clusters become significantly tighter as the number of eccentric observations grows and will be constrained to within 0.5 dex once 10 eccentric binary black holes are observed.
; ; ; ;
Award ID(s):
Publication Date:
Journal Name:
The Astrophysical Journal Letters
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Abstract

    Observations have shown that the majority of massive stars, the progenitors of black holes (BHs), have on average more than one stellar companion. In triple systems, wide inner binaries can be driven to a merger by a third body due to long-term secular interactions, most notably by the eccentric Lidov–Kozai effect. In this study, we explore the properties of BH mergers in triple systems and compare their population properties to those of binaries produced in isolation and assembled in dense star clusters. Using the same stellar physics and identical assumptions for the initial populations of binaries and triples, we show that stellar triples yield a significantly flatter mass ratio distribution fromq= 1 down toq∼ 0.3 than either binary stars or dense stellar clusters, similar to the population properties inferred from the most recent catalog of gravitational-wave events, though we do not claim that all the observed events can be accounted for with triples. While hierarchical mergers in clusters can also produce asymmetric mass ratios, the unique spins of such mergers can be used to distinguish them from those produced from stellar triples. All three channels occupy distinct regions in the total mass–mass ratio space, which may allow them tomore »be disentangled as more BH mergers are detected by LIGO, Virgo, and KAGRA.

    « less
  2. Abstract

    We describe the public release of the Cluster Monte Carlo (CMC) code, a parallel, star-by-starN-body code for modeling dense star clusters.CMCtreats collisional stellar dynamics using Hénon’s method, where the cumulative effect of many two-body encounters is statistically reproduced as a single effective encounter between nearest-neighbor particles on a relaxation timescale. The star-by-star approach allows for the inclusion of additional physics, including strong gravitational three- and four-body encounters, two-body tidal and gravitational-wave captures, mass loss in arbitrary galactic tidal fields, and stellar evolution for both single and binary stars. The public release ofCMCis pinned directly to theCOSMICpopulation synthesis code, allowing dynamical star cluster simulations and population synthesis studies to be performed using identical assumptions about the stellar physics and initial conditions. As a demonstration, we present two examples of star cluster modeling: first, we perform the largest (N= 108) star-by-starN-body simulation of a Plummer sphere evolving to core collapse, reproducing the expected self-similar density profile over more than 15 orders of magnitude; second, we generate realistic models for typical globular clusters, and we show that their dynamical evolution can produce significant numbers of black hole mergers with masses greater than those produced from isolated binary evolution (such as GW190521, amore »recently reported merger with component masses in the pulsational pair-instability mass gap).

    « less
  3. Abstract Current theoretical models predict a mass gap with a dearth of stellar black holes (BHs) between roughly 50 M ⊙ and 100 M ⊙ , while above the range accessible through massive star evolution, intermediate-mass BHs (IMBHs) still remain elusive. Repeated mergers of binary BHs, detectable via gravitational-wave emission with the current LIGO/Virgo/Kagra interferometers and future detectors such as LISA or the Einstein Telescope, can form both mass-gap BHs and IMBHs. Here we explore the possibility that mass-gap BHs and IMBHs are born as a result of successive BH mergers in dense star clusters. In particular, nuclear star clusters at the centers of galaxies have deep enough potential wells to retain most of the BH merger products after they receive significant recoil kicks due to anisotropic emission of gravitational radiation. Using for the first time simulations that include full stellar evolution, we show that a massive stellar BH seed can easily grow to ∼10 3 –10 4 M ⊙ as a result of repeated mergers with other smaller BHs. We find that lowering the cluster metallicity leads to larger final BH masses. We also show that the growing BH spin tends to decrease in magnitude with the number ofmore »mergers so that a negative correlation exists between the final mass and spin of the resulting IMBHs. Assumptions about the birth spins of stellar BHs affect our results significantly, with low birth spins leading to the production of a larger population of massive BHs.« less

    The identification of the first confirmed neutron star–black hole (NS-BH) binary mergers by the LIGO, Virgo, and KAGRA collaboration provides the opportunity to investigate the properties of the early sample of confirmed and candidate events. Here, we focus primarily on the tilt angle of the BH’s spin relative to the orbital angular momentum vector of the binary, and the implications for the physical processes that determine this tilt. The posterior tilt distributions of GW200115 and the candidate events GW190426_152155 and GW190917_114630 peak at significantly anti-aligned orientations (though display wide distributions). Producing these tilts through isolated binary evolution would require stronger natal kicks than are typically considered (and preferentially polar kicks would be ruled out), and/or an additional source of tilt such as stable mass transfer. The early sample of NS-BH events are less massive than expected for classical formation channels, and may provide evidence for efficient mass transfer that results in the merger of more massive NS-BH binaries before their evolution to the compact phase is complete. We predict that future gravitational-wave detections of NS-BH events will continue to display total binary masses of ≈7 M⊙ and mass ratios of q ∼ 3 if this interpretation is correct. Conversely, themore »high mass of the candidate GW191219_163120 suggests a dynamical capture origin. Large tilts in a significant fraction of merging NS-BH systems would weaken the prospects for electromagnetic detection. However, EM observations, including non-detections, can significantly tighten the constraints on spin and mass ratio.

    « less
  5. ABSTRACT Massive black hole (MBH) binary inspiral time-scales are uncertain, and their spins are even more poorly constrained. Spin misalignment introduces asymmetry in the gravitational radiation, which imparts a recoil kick to the merged MBH. Understanding how MBH binary spins evolve is crucial for determining their recoil velocities, their gravitational wave (GW) waveforms detectable with Laser Interferometer Space Antenna, and their retention rate in galaxies. Here, we introduce a sub-resolution model for gas- and gravitational wave (GW)-driven MBH binary spin evolution using accreting MBHs from the Illustris cosmological hydrodynamic simulations. We also model binary inspiral via dynamical friction, stellar scattering, viscous gas drag, and GW emission. Our model assumes that the circumbinary disc always removes angular momentum from the binary. It also assumes differential accretion, which causes greater alignment of the secondary MBH spin in unequal-mass mergers. We find that 47 per cent of the MBHs in our population merge by z = 0. Of these, 19 per cent have misaligned primaries and 10 per cent have misaligned secondaries at the time of merger in our fiducial model with initial eccentricity of 0.6 and accretion rates from Illustris. The MBH misalignment fraction depends strongly on the accretion disc parameters, however. Reducing accretion rates by a factor ofmore »100, in a thicker disc, yields 79 and 42 per cent misalignment for primaries and secondaries, respectively. Even in the more conservative fiducial model, more than 12 per cent of binaries experience recoils of >500 km s−1, which could displace them at least temporarily from galactic nuclei. We additionally find that a significant number of systems experience strong precession.« less