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Title: Things That Might Go Bump in the Night: Assessing Structure in the Binary Black Hole Mass Spectrum

Several features in the mass spectrum of merging binary black holes (BBHs) have been identified using data from the Third Gravitational Wave Transient Catalog (GWTC-3). These features are of particular interest as they may encode the uncertain mechanism of BBH formation. We assess if the features are statistically significant or the result of Poisson noise due to the finite number of observed events. We simulate catalogs of BBHs whose underlying distribution does not have the features of interest, apply the analysis previously performed on GWTC-3, and determine how often such features are spuriously found. We find that one of the features found in GWTC-3, the peak at ∼35M, cannot be explained by Poisson noise alone: peaks as significant occur in 1.7% of catalogs generated from a featureless population. This peak is therefore likely to be of astrophysical origin. The data is suggestive of an additional significant peak at ∼10M, though the exact location of this feature is not resolvable with current observations. Additional structure beyond a power law, such as the purported dip at ∼14M, can be explained by Poisson noise. We also provide a publicly available package,GWMockCat, that creates simulated catalogs of BBH events with correlated measurement uncertainty and selection effects according to user-specified underlying distributions and detector sensitivities.

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Award ID(s):
2006645 2110507 2146528
Author(s) / Creator(s):
; ; ; ; ; ;
Publisher / Repository:
DOI PREFIX: 10.3847
Date Published:
Journal Name:
The Astrophysical Journal
Medium: X Size: Article No. 107
["Article No. 107"]
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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