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  1. Free, publicly-accessible full text available October 1, 2024

    Eccentricity and spin precession are key observables in gravitational-wave astronomy, encoding precious information about the astrophysical formation of compact binaries together with fine details of the relativistic two-body problem. However, the two effects can mimic each other in the emitted signals, raising issues around their distinguishability. Since inferring the existence of both eccentricity and spin precession simultaneously is – at present – not possible, current state-of-the-art analyses assume that either one of the effects may be present in the data. In such a setup, what are the conditions required for a confident identification of either effect? We present simulated parameter inference studies in realistic LIGO/Virgo noise, studying events consistent with either spin precessing or eccentric binary black hole coalescences and recovering under the assumption that either of the two effects may be at play. We quantify how the distinguishability of eccentricity and spin precession increases with the number of visible orbital cycles, confirming that the signal must be sufficiently long for the two effects to be separable. The threshold depends on the injected source, with inclination, eccentricity, and effective spin playing crucial roles. In particular, for injections similar to GW190521, we find that it is impossible to confidently distinguish eccentricity from spin precession.

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  3. Free, publicly-accessible full text available October 1, 2024
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    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 of 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. 
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