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Up-down instability of binary black holes in numerical relativity

Varma, Vijay and Mould, Matthew and Gerosa, Davide and Scheel, Mark A. and Kidder, Lawrence E. and Pfeiffer, Harald P. (2021) Up-down instability of binary black holes in numerical relativity. Physical Review D, 103 (6). Art. No. 064003. ISSN 2470-0010.

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Binary black holes with spins that are aligned with the orbital angular momentum do not precess. However, post-Newtonian calculations predict that “up-down” binaries, in which the spin of the heavier (lighter) black hole is aligned (antialigned) with the orbital angular momentum, are unstable when the spins are slightly perturbed from perfect alignment. This instability provides a possible mechanism for the formation of precessing binaries in environments where sources are preferentially formed with (anti)aligned spins. In this paper, we present the first full numerical relativity simulations capturing this instability. These simulations span ∼100 orbits and ∼3–5 precession cycles before merger, making them some of the longest numerical relativity simulations to date. Initialized with a small perturbation of 1°–10°, the instability causes a dramatic growth of the spin misalignments, which can reach ∼90° near merger. We show that this leaves a strong imprint on the subdominant modes of the gravitational wave signal, which can potentially be used to distinguish up-down binaries from other sources. Finally, we show that post-Newtonian and effective-one-body approximants are able to reproduce the unstable dynamics of up-down binaries extracted from numerical relativity.

Item Type:Article
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription Paper ItemAnimations
Varma, Vijay0000-0002-9994-1761
Mould, Matthew0000-0001-5460-2910
Gerosa, Davide0000-0002-0933-3579
Scheel, Mark A.0000-0001-6656-9134
Kidder, Lawrence E.0000-0001-5392-7342
Pfeiffer, Harald P.0000-0001-9288-519X
Additional Information:© 2021 American Physical Society. Received 13 December 2020; accepted 5 February 2021; published 1 March 2021. We thank Daria Gangardt, Serguei Ossokine, Ulrich Sperhake, and Richard O’Shaughnessy for useful discussions. V. V. is supported by a Klarman Fellowship at Cornell and National Science Foundation (NSF) Grants No. PHY-170212 and No. PHY-1708213 at Caltech. D. G. and M. M. are supported by European Union’s H2020 ERC Starting Grant No. 945155-GWmining and Royal Society Grant No. RGS-R2-202004. D. G. is supported by Leverhulme Trust Grant No. RPG-2019-350. V. V., M. A. S., and L. E. K. are supported by the Sherman Fairchild Foundation. M. A. S. is supported by NSF Grants No. PHY-2011961, No. PHY-2011968, and No. OAC-1931266 at Caltech. L. E. K. is supported NSF Grants No. PHY-1912081 and No. OAC-1931280 at Cornell. Simulations for this work were performed on the Frontera cluster [50], which is supported by the Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) at the University of Texas at Austin. Additional computational work was performed on the Wheeler cluster at Caltech, which is supported by the Sherman Fairchild Foundation and Caltech, the University of Birmingham BlueBEAR cluster, the Athena cluster at HPC Midlands+ funded by Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council Grant No. EP/P020232/1, and the Maryland Advanced Research Computing Center (MARCC).
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Cornell UniversityUNSPECIFIED
European Research Council (ERC)945155
Royal SocietyRGS-R2-202004
Leverhulme TrustRPG-2019-350
Sherman Fairchild FoundationUNSPECIFIED
Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC)UNSPECIFIED
University of BirminghamUNSPECIFIED
Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)EP/P020232/1
Maryland Advanced Research Computing CenterUNSPECIFIED
Issue or Number:6
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20210301-152254026
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Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:108257
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:01 Mar 2021 23:46
Last Modified:01 Mar 2021 23:46

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