Nova Scorpii and coalescing low-mass black hole binaries as LIGO sources

Michael S. Sipior, Steinn Sigurdsson

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18 Scopus citations


Double neutron star (NS-NS) binaries, analogous to the well-known Hulse- Taylor pulsar PSR 1913+16 (documented by Hulse & Taylor in 1974), are guaranteed-to-exist sources of high-frequency gravitational radiation detectable by LIGO. There is considerable uncertainty in the estimated rate of coalescence of such systems (see the work of Phinney in 1991, Narayan and coworkers in 1991, and Kalogera and coworkers in 2001), with conservative estimates of ∼1 per 106 yr per galaxy, and optimistic theoretical estimates 1 or more mag larger. Formation rates of low-mass black hole (BH)-neutron star binaries may be higher than those of NS-NS binaries and may dominate the detectable LIGO signal rate. Rate estimates for such binaries are plagued by severe model uncertainties. Recent estimates by Portegies Zwart & Yungelson in 1998 and De Donder & Vanbeveren in 1998 suggest that BH-BH binaries do not coalesce at significant rates despite being formed at high rates. We estimate the enhanced coalescence rate for BH-BH binaries due to weak asymmetric kicks during the formation of low-mass black holes like Nova Sco (see the work of Brandt, Podsiadlowski, & Sigurdsson in 1995) and find they may contribute significantly to the LIGO signal rate, possibly dominating the phase I detectable signals if the range of black hole masses for which there is significant kick is broad enough. For a standard Salpeter initial mass function, assuming mild natal kicks, we project that the R6 merger rate (the rate of mergers per 106 yr in a Milky Way-like galaxy) of BH-BH systems is ∼0.5, smaller than that of NS-NS systems. However, the higher chirp mass of these systems produces a signal nearly 4 times greater, on average, with a commensurate increase in search volume, hence, our claim that BH-BH mergers (and, to a lesser extent, BH-NS coalescence) should comprise a significant fraction of the signal seen by LIGO. The BH-BH coalescence channel considered here also predicts that a substantial fraction of BH-BH systems should have at least one component with near-maximal spin (a/M ∼ 1). This is from the spin-up provided by the fallback material after a supernova. If no mass transfer occurs between the two supernovae, both components could be spinning rapidly. The waveforms produced by the coalescence of such a system should produce a clear spin signature, so this hypothesis could be directly tested by LIGO.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)962-970
Number of pages9
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2 I
StatePublished - Jun 20 2002

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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