Black-hole spectroscopy: Testing general relativity through gravitational-wave observations

Olaf Dreyer, Bernard Kelly, Badri Krishnan, Lee Samuel Finn, David Garrison, Ramon Lopez-Aleman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

256 Scopus citations


Assuming that general relativity is the correct theory of gravity in the strongfield limit, can gravitational-wave observations distinguish between black holes and other compact object sources? Alternatively, can gravitationalwave observations provide a test of one of the fundamental predictions of general relativity: the no-hair theorem? Here we describe a definitive test of the hypothesis that observations of damped, sinusoidal gravitational waves originate from a black hole or, alternatively, that nature respects the general relativistic no-hair theorem. For astrophysical black holes, which have a negligible charge-to-mass ratio, the black-hole quasi-normal mode spectrum is characterized entirely by the black-hole mass and angular momentum and is unique to black holes. In a different theory of gravity, or if the observed radiation arises from a different source (e.g., a neutron star, strange matter or boson star), the spectrum will be inconsistent with that predicted for general relativistic black holes. We give a statistical characterization of the consistency between the noisy observation and the theoretical predictions of general relativity and a demonstration, through simulation, of the effectiveness of the test for strong sources.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)787-803
Number of pages17
JournalClassical and Quantum Gravity
Issue number4
StatePublished - Feb 21 2004

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Physics and Astronomy (miscellaneous)


Dive into the research topics of 'Black-hole spectroscopy: Testing general relativity through gravitational-wave observations'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this