skip to main content

This content will become publicly available on March 1, 2023

Title: Repeated Mergers, Mass-gap Black Holes, and Formation of Intermediate-mass Black Holes in Dense Massive Star Clusters
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 of more » 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
; ; ;
Award ID(s):
Publication Date:
Journal Name:
The Astrophysical Journal
Page Range or eLocation-ID:
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Abstract Using ground-based gravitational-wave detectors, we probe the mass function of intermediate-mass black holes (IMBHs) wherein we also include BHs in the upper mass gap at ∼60–130 M ⊙ . Employing the projected sensitivity of the upcoming LIGO and Virgo fourth observing run (O4), we perform Bayesian analysis on quasi-circular nonprecessing, spinning IMBH binaries (IMBHBs) with total masses 50–500 M ⊙ , mass ratios 1.25, 4, and 10, and dimensionless spins up to 0.95, and estimate the precision with which the source-frame parameters can be measured. We find that, at 2 σ , the mass of the heavier component of IMBHBs can be constrained with an uncertainty of ∼10%–40% at a signal-to-noise ratio of 20. Focusing on the stellar-mass gap with new tabulations of the 12 C( α , γ ) 16 O reaction rate and its uncertainties, we evolve massive helium core stars using MESA to establish the lower and upper edges of the mass gap as ≃ 59 − 13 + 34 M ⊙ and ≃ 139 − 14 + 30 M ⊙ respectively, where the error bars give the mass range that follows from the ±3 σ uncertainty in the 12 C( α , γ ) 16more »O nuclear reaction rate. We find that high resolution of the tabulated reaction rate and fine temporal resolution are necessary to resolve the peak of the BH mass spectrum. We then study IMBHBs with components lying in the mass gap and show that the O4 run will be able to robustly identify most such systems. Finally, we reanalyze GW190521 with a state-of-the-art aligned-spin waveform model, finding that the primary mass lies in the mass gap with 90% credibility.« less
  2. 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
  3. Abstract Repeated mergers of stellar-mass black holes in dense star clusters can produce intermediate-mass black holes (IMBHs). In particular, nuclear star clusters at the centers of galaxies have deep enough potential wells to retain most of the black hole (BH) merger products, in spite of the significant recoil kicks due to anisotropic emission of gravitational radiation. These events can be detected in gravitational waves, which represent an unprecedented opportunity to reveal IMBHs. In this paper, we analyze the statistical results of a wide range of numerical simulations, which encompass different cluster metallicities, initial BH seed masses, and initial BH spins, and we compute the merger rate of IMBH binaries. We find that merger rates are in the range 0.01–10 Gpc −3 yr −1 depending on IMBH masses. We also compute the number of multiband detections in ground-based and space-based observatories. Our model predicts that a few merger events per year should be detectable with LISA, DECIGO, Einstein Telescope (ET), and LIGO for IMBHs with masses ≲1000 M ⊙ , and a few tens of merger events per year with DECIGO, ET, and LIGO only.
  4. Abstract

    Most stellar evolution models predict that black holes (BHs) should not exist above approximately 50–70M, the lower limit of the pair-instability mass gap. However, recent LIGO/Virgo detections indicate the existence of BHs with masses at and above this threshold. We suggest that massive BHs, including intermediate-mass BHs (IMBHs), can form in galactic nuclei through collisions between stellar-mass BHs and the surrounding main-sequence stars. Considering dynamical processes such as collisions, mass segregation, and relaxation, we find that this channel can be quite efficient, forming IMBHs as massive as 104M. This upper limit assumes that (1) the BHs accrete a substantial fraction of the stellar mass captured during each collision and (2) that the rate at which new stars are introduced into the region near the SMBH is high enough to offset depletion by stellar disruptions and star–star collisions. We discuss deviations from these key assumptions in the text. Our results suggest that BHs in the pair-instability mass gap and IMBHs may be ubiquitous in galactic centers. This formation channel has implications for observations. Collisions between stars and BHs can produce electromagnetic signatures, for example, from X-ray binaries and tidal disruption events. Additionally, formed through this channel, both BHs in themore »mass gap and IMBHs can merge with the SMBHs at the center of a galactic nucleus through gravitational waves. These gravitational-wave events are extreme- and intermediate-mass ratio inspirals.

    « less
  5. Intermediate-mass black holes (IMBHs) span the approximate mass range 100−10 5   M ⊙ , between black holes (BHs) that formed by stellar collapse and the supermassive BHs at the centers of galaxies. Mergers of IMBH binaries are the most energetic gravitational-wave sources accessible by the terrestrial detector network. Searches of the first two observing runs of Advanced LIGO and Advanced Virgo did not yield any significant IMBH binary signals. In the third observing run (O3), the increased network sensitivity enabled the detection of GW190521, a signal consistent with a binary merger of mass ∼150  M ⊙ providing direct evidence of IMBH formation. Here, we report on a dedicated search of O3 data for further IMBH binary mergers, combining both modeled (matched filter) and model-independent search methods. We find some marginal candidates, but none are sufficiently significant to indicate detection of further IMBH mergers. We quantify the sensitivity of the individual search methods and of the combined search using a suite of IMBH binary signals obtained via numerical relativity, including the effects of spins misaligned with the binary orbital axis, and present the resulting upper limits on astrophysical merger rates. Our most stringent limit is for equal mass and alignedmore »spin BH binary of total mass 200  M ⊙ and effective aligned spin 0.8 at 0.056 Gpc −3 yr −1 (90% confidence), a factor of 3.5 more constraining than previous LIGO-Virgo limits. We also update the estimated rate of mergers similar to GW190521 to 0.08 Gpc −3 yr −1 .« less