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Published April 30, 2021 | Published + Supplemental Material + Accepted Version
Journal Article Open

New Spin on LIGO-Virgo Binary Black Holes


Gravitational waves from binary black holes have the potential to yield information on both of the intrinsic parameters that characterize the compact objects: their masses and spins. While the component masses are usually resolvable, the component spins have proven difficult to measure. This limitation stems in great part from our choice to inquire about the spins of the most and least massive objects in each binary, a question that becomes ill defined when the masses are equal. In this Letter, we show that one can ask a different question of the data: what are the spins of the objects with the highest and lowest dimensionless spins in the binary? We show that this can significantly improve estimates of the individual spins, especially for binary systems with comparable masses. When applying this parametrization to the first 13 gravitational-wave events detected by the LIGO-Virgo Collaboration (LVC), we find that the highest-spinning object is constrained to have nonzero spin for most sources and to have significant support at the Kerr limit for GW151226 and GW170729. A joint analysis of all the confident binary black hole detections by the LVC finds that, unlike with the traditional parametrization, the distribution of spin magnitude for the highest-spinning object has negligible support at zero spin. Regardless of the parametrization used, the configuration where all of the spins in the population are aligned with the orbital angular momentum is excluded from the 90% credible interval for the first ten events and from the 99% credible interval for all current confident detections.

Additional Information

© 2021 American Physical Society. (Received 2 November 2020; accepted 5 March 2021; published 29 April 2021) S. B., M. I., and S. V. acknowledge support of the National Science Foundation and the LIGO Laboratory. LIGO was constructed by the California Institute of Technology and Massachusetts Institute of Technology with funding from the National Science Foundation and operates under cooperative agreement PHY-0757058. S. B. is also supported by the Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowship for New Americans and the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship under Grant No. DGE-1122374. M. I. is supported by NASA through the NASA Hubble Fellowship Grant No. HST-HF2-51410.001-A awarded by the Space Telescope Science Institute, which is operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc., for NASA, under Contract No. NAS5-26555. V. V. is generously supported by the Sherman Fairchild Foundation, and NSF Grants No. PHY–170212 and No. PHY–1708213 at Caltech, and by a Klarman Fellowship at Cornell. The authors would like to thank Colm Talbot for help with GWPopulation, and Thomas Callister, Thomas Dent, Maya Fishbach, and Eric Thrane for careful comments on the manuscript. We also thank Will Farr, Katerina Chatziioannou, Javier Roulet, Leo Stein, Simona Miller, Carl-Johan Haster, Saavik Ford, Barry McKernan, Daniel Wysocki, Richard O'Shaughnessy, and others for useful discussions. This paper carries LIGO document No. LIGO-P2000247.

Attached Files

Accepted Version - 2007.09156.pdf

Published - PhysRevLett.126.171103.pdf

Supplemental Material - supplement.pdf


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August 20, 2023
August 20, 2023