Gravitational waves from a compact star in a circular, inspiral orbit, in the equatorial plane of a massive, spinning black hole, as observed by LISA

Lee Samuel Finn, Kip S. Thorne

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

136 Scopus citations


Results are presented from high-precision computations of the orbital evolution and emitted gravitational waves for a stellar-mass object spiraling into a massive black hole in a slowly shrinking, circular, equatorial orbit. The focus of these computations is inspiral near the innermost stable circular orbit (isco) - more particularly, on orbits for which the angular velocity Ω is 0.03≲Ω/Ωisco≤1.0. The computations are based on the Teuksolsky-Sasaki-Nakamura formalism, and the results are tabulated in a set of functions that are of order unity and represent relativistic corrections to low-orbital-velocity formulas. These tables can form a foundation for future design studies for the LISA space-based gravitational-wave mission. A first survey of applications to LISA is presented: Signal to noise ratios S/N are computed and graphed as functions of the time-evolving gravitational-wave frequency for the lowest three harmonics of the orbital period, and for various representative values of the hole's mass M and spin a and the inspiraling object's mass μ, with the distance to Earth chosen to be r0=1 Gpc. These S/N's show a very strong dependence on the black-hole spin, as well as on M and μ. Graphs are presented showing the range of the {M,a,μ} parameter space, for which S/N>10 at r0 =1 Gpc during the last year of inspiral. The hole's spin a has a factor of ∼10 influence on the range of M (at fixed μ) for which S/N>10, and the presence or absence of a white-dwarf-binary background has a factor of ∼3 influence. A comparison with predicted event rates shows strong promise for detecting these waves, but not beyond about 1 Gpc if the inspiraling object is a white dwarf or neutron star. This argues for a modest lowering of LISA's noise floor. A brief discussion is given of the prospects for extracting information from the observed waves.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number124021
Pages (from-to)1-20
Number of pages20
JournalPhysical Review D - Particles, Fields, Gravitation and Cosmology
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 15 2000

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Physics and Astronomy (miscellaneous)


Dive into the research topics of 'Gravitational waves from a compact star in a circular, inspiral orbit, in the equatorial plane of a massive, spinning black hole, as observed by LISA'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this