Disentangling the potential dark matter origin of LIGO's black holes

Ryan Magee, Chad Hanna

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


The nature of dark matter (DM) remains one of the biggest open questions in physics. One intriguing DM candidate, primordial black holes (PBHs), has faced renewed interest following the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatorys (LIGO) detection of gravitational waves from merging stellar mass black holes. While subsequent work has ruled out the possibility that DM could consist solely of black holes similar to those that LIGO has detected with masses above 10 MO., LIGOs connection to DM remains unknown. In this work, we consider a distribution of PBHs that accounts for all of the DM, is consistent with all of LIGOs observations arising from PBH binaries, and resolves tension in previous surveys of microlensing events in the Milky Way halo. The PBH mass distribution that we consider offers an important prediction-LIGO may detect black holes smaller than have ever been observed with ∼1% of the black holes it detects having a mass less than the mass of our Sun and ∼10% with masses in the mass gap. Approximately one year of operating advanced LIGO at design sensitivity should be adequate to begin to see a hint of a primordial black hole mass distribution. Detecting PBH binaries below a solar mass will be readily distinguishable from other known compact binary systems, thereby providing an unambiguous observational window for advanced LIGO to pin down the nature of DM.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberL13
JournalAstrophysical Journal Letters
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 20 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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