Gravitational-wave localization alone can probe origin of stellar-mass black hole mergers

I. Bartos*, Z. Haiman, Z. Marka, B. D. Metzger, N. C. Stone, S. Marka

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


The recent discovery of gravitational waves from stellar-mass binary black hole mergers by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory opened the door to alternative probes of stellar and galactic evolution, cosmology and fundamental physics. Probing the origin of binary black hole mergers will be difficult due to the expected lack of electromagnetic emission and limited localization accuracy. Associations with rare host galaxy types - such as active galactic nuclei - can nevertheless be identified statistically through spatial correlation. Here we establish the feasibility of statistically proving the connection between binary black hole mergers and active galactic nuclei as hosts, even if only a sub-population of mergers originate from active galactic nuclei. Our results are the demonstration that the limited localization of gravitational waves, previously written off as not useful to distinguish progenitor channels, can in fact contribute key information, broadening the range of astrophysical questions probed by binary black hole observations.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number831
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2017
Externally publishedYes

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© 2017 The Author(s).


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