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General-relativistic precession in a black-hole binary

Hannam, Mark and Hoy, Charlie and Thompson, Jonathan E. and Fairhurst, Stephen and Raymond, Vivien and Colleoni, Marta and Davis, Derek and Estellés, Héctor and Haster, Carl-Johan and Helmling-Cornell, Adrian and Husa, Sascha and Keitel, David and Massinger, T. J. and Menéndez-Vázquez, Alexis and Mogushi, Kentaro and Ossokine, Serguei and Payne, Ethan and Pratten, Geraint and Romero-Shaw, Isobel M. and Sadiq, Jam and Schmidt, Patricia and Tenorio, Rodrigo and Udall, Richard and Veitch, John and Williams, Daniel and Yelikar, Anjali Balasaheb and Zimmerman, Aaron (2022) General-relativistic precession in a black-hole binary. Nature, 610 . pp. 652-655. ISSN 0028-0836. doi:10.1038/s41586-022-05212-z.

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The general-relativistic phenomenon of spin-induced orbital precession has not yet been observed in strong-field gravity. Gravitational-wave observations of binary black holes (BBHs) are prime candidates, as we expect the astrophysical binary population to contain precessing binaries. Imprints of precession have been investigated in several signals, but no definitive identification of orbital precession has been reported in any of the 84 BBH observations so far by the Advanced LIGO and Virgo detectors. Here we report the measurement of strong-field precession in the LIGO–Virgo–Kagra gravitational-wave signal GW200129. The binary’s orbit precesses at a rate ten orders of magnitude faster than previous weak-field measurements from binary pulsars. We also find that the primary black hole is probably highly spinning. According to current binary population estimates, a GW200129-like signal is extremely unlikely, and therefore presents a direct challenge to many current binary-formation models.

Item Type:Article
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription ReadCube access
Hannam, Mark0000-0001-5571-325X
Fairhurst, Stephen0000-0001-8480-1961
Davis, Derek0000-0001-5620-6751
Haster, Carl-Johan0000-0001-8040-9807
Husa, Sascha0000-0002-0445-1971
Keitel, David0000-0002-2824-626X
Massinger, T. J.0000-0002-3429-5025
Ossokine, Serguei0000-0002-2579-1246
Payne, Ethan0000-0003-4507-8373
Romero-Shaw, Isobel M.0000-0002-4181-8090
Veitch, John0000-0002-6508-0713
Williams, Daniel0000-0003-3772-198X
Zimmerman, Aaron0000-0002-7453-6372
Additional Information:We thank T. Dent, S. Ghosh, E. Hamilton, P. Kolitsidou, L. London and F. Ohme for discussions; and K. Riles for guidance during the internal LIGO review process. The authors were supported in part by Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) grant ST/V00154X/1 and European Research Council (ERC) Consolidator Grant 647839. Calculations were performed using the supercomputing facilities at Cardiff University operated by Advanced Research Computing at Cardiff (ARCCA) on behalf of the Cardiff Supercomputing Facility and the HPC Wales and Supercomputing Wales (SCW) projects. We acknowledge the support of the latter, which is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) via the Welsh Government. In part, the computational resources at Cardiff University were also supported by STFC grant ST/I006285/1. We are also grateful for computational resources provided by LIGO Laboratory and supported by National Science Foundation Grants PHY-0757058 and PHY-0823459. This material is based on work supported by NSF’s LIGO Laboratory, which is a major facility fully funded by the National Science Foundation. 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. LIGO is funded by the US National Science Foundation. 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. Plots were prepared with Matplotlib, GWpy and PESummary. Parameter estimation was performed with the LALInference and LALSimulation libraries within LALSuite, as well as the BILBY and PBILBY libraries and the DYNESTY nested sampling package. NumPy, Scipy and Positive were used during the analysis.
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC)ST/V00154X/1
European Research Council (ERC)647839
European Regional Development FundUNSPECIFIED
Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC)ST/I006285/1
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20221024-125854800.32
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Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:117561
Deposited By: Research Services Depository
Deposited On:01 Nov 2022 20:30
Last Modified:08 Nov 2022 00:22

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