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Published February 20, 2016 | Published
Journal Article Open

Astrophysical Implications of the Binary Black Hole Merger GW150914


The discovery of the gravitational-wave (GW) source GW150914 with the Advanced LIGO detectors provides the first observational evidence for the existence of binary black hole (BH) systems that inspiral and merge within the age of the universe. Such BH mergers have been predicted in two main types of formation models, involving isolated binaries in galactic fields or dynamical interactions in young and old dense stellar environments. The measured masses robustly demonstrate that relatively "heavy" BHs (≳25 M_☉) can form in nature. This discovery implies relatively weak massive-star winds and thus the formation of GW150914 in an environment with a metallicity lower than about 1/2 of the solar value. The rate of binary-BH (BBH) mergers inferred from the observation of GW150914 is consistent with the higher end of rate predictions (≳1 Gpc^(−3) yr^(−1)) from both types of formation models. The low measured redshift (z ≃ 0.1) of GW150914 and the low inferred metallicity of the stellar progenitor imply either BBH formation in a low-mass galaxy in the local universe and a prompt merger, or formation at high redshift with a time delay between formation and merger of several Gyr. This discovery motivates further studies of binary-BH formation astrophysics. It also has implications for future detections and studies by Advanced LIGO and Advanced Virgo, and GW detectors in space.

Additional Information

© 2016 American Astronomical Society. Received 2016 January 29; accepted 2016 February 3; published 2016 February 11. The authors gratefully acknowledge the support of the United States National Science Foundation (NSF) for the construction and operation of the LIGO Laboratory and Advanced LIGO, as well as the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) of the United Kingdom, the Max-Planck-Society (MPS), and the State of Niedersachsen/Germany for support of the construction of Advanced LIGO and construction and operation of the GEO600 detector. Additional support for Advanced LIGO was provided by the Australian Research Council. The authors gratefully acknowledge the Italian Istituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare (INFN), the French Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), and the Foundation for Fundamental Research on Matter supported by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research for the construction and operation of the Virgo detector and the creation and support of the EGO consortium. The authors also gratefully acknowledge research support from these agencies as well as by the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research of India, Department of Science and Technology, India, Science & Engineering Research Board (SERB), India, Ministry of Human Resource Development, India, the Spanish Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad, the Conselleria d'Economia i Competitivitat and Conselleria d'Educació Cultura i Universitats of the Govern de les Illes Balears, the National Science Centre of Poland, the European Union, the Royal Society, the Scottish Funding Council, the Scottish Universities Physics Alliance, the Lyon Institute of Origins (LIO), the National Research Foundation of Korea, Industry Canada and the Province of Ontario through the Ministry of Economic Development and Innovation, the National Science and Engineering Research Council Canada, the Brazilian Ministry of Science, Technology, and Innovation, the Leverhulme Trust, the Research Corporation, Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST), Taiwan, and the Kavli Foundation. The authors gratefully acknowledge the support of the NSF, STFC, MPS, INFN, CNRS, and the State of Niedersachsen/Germany for provision of computational resources.

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August 22, 2023
August 22, 2023