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No Evidence that the Majority of Black Holes in Binaries Have Zero Spin

Callister, Thomas A. and Miller, Simona J. and Chatziioannou, Katerina and Farr, Will M. (2022) No Evidence that the Majority of Black Holes in Binaries Have Zero Spin. Astrophysical Journal Letters, 937 (1). Art. No. L13. ISSN 2041-8205. doi:10.3847/2041-8213/ac847e.

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The spin properties of merging black holes observed with gravitational waves can offer novel information about the origin of these systems. The magnitudes and orientations of black hole spins offer a record of binaries’ evolutionary history, encoding information about massive stellar evolution and the astrophysical environments in which binary black holes are assembled. Recent analyses of the binary black hole population have yielded conflicting portraits of the black hole spin distribution. Some works suggest that black hole spins are small but nonzero and exhibit a wide range of misalignment angles relative to binaries’ orbital angular momenta. Other works conclude that the majority of black holes are nonspinning while the remainder are rapidly rotating and primarily aligned with their orbits. We revisit these conflicting conclusions, employing a variety of complementary methods to measure the distribution of spin magnitudes and orientations among binary black hole mergers. We find that the existence of a subpopulation of black holes with vanishing spins is not required by current data. Should such a subpopulation exist, we conclude that it must contain ≲60% of binaries. Additionally, we find evidence for significant spin–orbit misalignment among the binary black hole population, with some systems exhibiting misalignment angles greater than 90°, and see no evidence for an approximately spin-aligned subpopulation.

Item Type:Article
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URLURL TypeDescription
Callister, Thomas A.0000-0001-9892-177X
Miller, Simona J.0000-0001-5670-7046
Chatziioannou, Katerina0000-0002-5833-413X
Farr, Will M.0000-0003-1540-8562
Additional Information:We thank our anonymous referee, the AAS Data Editors, and Ilya Mandel for their valuable comments on our manuscript, as well as Eric Thrane, Colm Talbot, and Shanika Galaudage for numerous discussions about these results. We also thank Javier Roulet for sharing data from Roulet et al. (2021) with us and for insightful feedback on this study, and Christopher Berry, Charlie Hoy, Vaibhav Tiwari, and Mike Zevin for their thoughtful comments. This research has made use of data, software, and/or web tools obtained from the Gravitational Wave Open Science Center (, a service of LIGO Laboratory, the LIGO Scientific Collaboration and the Virgo Collaboration. Virgo is funded by the French Centre National de Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), the Italian Istituto Nazionale della Fisica Nucleare (INFN) and the Dutch Nikhef, with contributions by Polish and Hungarian institutes. This material is based upon work supported by NSF's LIGO Laboratory, which is a major facility fully funded by the National Science Foundation. The authors are grateful for computational resources provided by the LIGO Laboratory and supported by NSF grants PHY-0757058 and PHY-0823459.
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Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS)UNSPECIFIED
Istituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare (INFN)UNSPECIFIED
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Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20220928-285212100.3
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Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:117162
Deposited By: Melissa Ray
Deposited On:30 Sep 2022 14:39
Last Modified:30 Sep 2022 14:39

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