Linking gravitational waves and X-ray phenomena with joint LISA and Athena observations

Sean Mcgee, Alberto Sesana, Alberto Vecchio

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)
123 Downloads (Pure)


The evolution of cosmic structures, the formation and growth of the first black holes and the connection to their baryonic environment are key unsolved problems in astrophysics. The X-ray Athena mission and the gravitational-wave Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA) offer independent and complementary angles on these problems. We show that up to about 10 black hole binaries in the mass range of approximately 105 to 108 solar masses discovered by LISA at redshift below about 3.5 could be detected by Athena in an exposure time up to 100 ks, if prompt X-ray emission of 1–10% of the Eddington luminosity is present. Likewise, if any LISA-detected extreme-mass-ratio inspirals occur in accretion disks, Athena can detect associated electromagnetic emission out to a redshift of about 1. Finally, warned by LISA, Athena can point in advance and stare at stellar-mass binary black hole mergers at redshift less than about 0.1. These science opportunities emphasize the vast discovery space of simultaneous observations from the two observatories, which would be missed if they were operated in different epochs.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)26-31
Number of pages6
JournalNature Astronomy
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 6 Jan 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics


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