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Journal Article

The Formation and Gravitational-Wave Detection of Massive Stellar Black-Hole Binaries


Buonanno,  A.
Astrophysical and Cosmological Relativity, AEI-Golm, MPI for Gravitational Physics, Max Planck Society;
Maryland Center for Fundamental Physics & Joint Space-Science Institute, Department of Physics, University of Maryland;

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Belczynski, K., Buonanno, A., Cantiello, M., Fryer, C. L., Holz, D. E., Mandel, I., et al. (2014). The Formation and Gravitational-Wave Detection of Massive Stellar Black-Hole Binaries. Astrophysical Journal, 789(2): 120. doi:10.1088/0004-637X/789/2/120.

Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-0023-F9BC-4
If binaries consisting of two 100 Msun black holes exist they would serve as extraordinarily powerful gravitational-wave sources, detectable to redshifts of z=2 with the advanced LIGO/Virgo ground-based detectors. Large uncertainties about the evolution of massive stars preclude definitive rate predictions for mergers of these massive black holes. We show that rates as high as hundreds of detections per year, or as low as no detections whatsoever, are both possible. It was thought that the only way to produce these massive binaries was via dynamical interactions in dense stellar systems. This view has been challenged by the recent discovery of several stars with mass above 150 Msun in the R136 region of the Large Magellanic Cloud. Current models predict that when stars of this mass leave the main sequence, their expansion is insufficient to allow common envelope evolution to efficiently reduce the orbital separation. The resulting black-hole--black-hole binary remains too wide to be able to coalesce within a Hubble time. If this assessment is correct, isolated very massive binaries do not evolve to be gravitational-wave sources. However, other formation channels exist. For example, the high multiplicity of massive stars, and their common formation in relatively dense stellar associations, opens up dynamical channels for massive black hole mergers (e.g., via Kozai cycles or repeated binary-single interactions). We identify key physical factors that shape the population of very massive black-hole--black-hole binaries. Advanced gravitational-wave detectors will provide important constraints on the formation and evolution of very massive stars.