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

30 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

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Jules Halpern for useful discussions. I.B., Z.M., and S.M. are thankful for the generous support of Columbia University in the City of New York and of NSF grant PHY-1404462. Z.H. acknowledges support from NASA grant NNX15AB19G and a Simons Fellowship for Theoretical Physics. B.D.M. acknowledges support from NASA grant NNX16AB30G and the Research Corporation for Science Advancement Scialog Program grant RCSA23810. NCS acknowledges support by NASA through Einstein Postdoctoral Fellowship Award Number PF5-160145.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 The Author(s).


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