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Two-harmonic approximation for gravitational waveforms from precessing binaries

Fairhurst, Stephen, Green, Rhys, Hoy, Charlie, Hannam, Mark and Muir, Alistair 2020. Two-harmonic approximation for gravitational waveforms from precessing binaries. Physical Review D 102 (2) , 024055. 10.1103/PhysRevD.102.024055

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Abstract

Binary-black-hole orbits precess when the black-hole spins are misaligned with the binary’s orbital angular momentum. The apparently complicated dynamics can in most cases be described as simple precession of the orbital angular momentum about an approximately fixed total angular momentum. However, the imprint of the precession on the observed gravitational-wave signal is yet more complicated, with a nontrivial time-varying dependence on the black-hole dynamics, the binary’s orientation and the detector polarization. As a result, it is difficult to predict under which conditions precession effects are measurable in gravitational-wave observations, and their impact on both signal detection and source characterization. We show that the observed waveform can be simplified by decomposing it as a power series in a new precession parameter b = tan ( β / 2 ) , where β is the opening angle between the orbital and total angular momenta. The power series is made up of five harmonics, with frequencies that differ by the binary’s precession frequency, and individually do not exhibit amplitude and phase modulations. In many cases, the waveform can be well approximated by the two leading harmonics. In this approximation we are able to obtain a simple picture of precession as caused by the beating of two waveforms of similar frequency. This enables us to identify regions of the parameter space where precession is likely to have an observable effect on the waveform, and to propose a new approach to searching for signals from precessing binaries, based upon the two-harmonic approximation.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Physics and Astronomy
Publisher: American Physical Society
ISSN: 2470-0010
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 4 August 2020
Date of Acceptance: 26 June 2020
Last Modified: 06 Aug 2020 15:33
URI: http://orca.cf.ac.uk/id/eprint/133942

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