3 years ago

Measuring the binary black hole mass spectrum with an astrophysically motivated parameterization.

Eric Thrane, Colm Talbot

Gravitational-wave detections have revealed a previously unknown population of stellar mass black holes with masses above $20\, M_{\odot}$. These observations provide a new way to test models of stellar evolution for massive stars. By considering the astrophysical processes likely to determine the shape of the binary black hole mass spectrum, we construct a parameterized model to capture key features that can relate gravitational-wave data to theoretical stellar astrophysics. Pulsational pair-instability supernovae are expected to cause all stars with initial mass $100\, M_{\odot} \lesssim M \lesssim 150\, M_{\odot}$ to form $\sim 40\, M_{\odot}$ black holes. This would cause a cut-off in the black hole mass spectrum along with an excess of black holes near $40\, M_{\odot}$. First, our method can be used to measure the minimum and maximum stellar black hole mass (if the mass spectrum is characterized by one or more sharp cut-offs). Second, we determine the spectral index of the black hole mass distribution. Third, we measure the presence of a peak due, for example, to pair-instability supernovae. Finally, we show how inadequate models of the black hole mass spectrum lead to biased estimates of the merger rate.

Publisher URL: http://arxiv.org/abs/1801.02699

DOI: arXiv:1801.02699v1

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