Resonant-plane locking and spin alignment in stellar-mass black-hole binaries: a diagnostic of compact-binary formation

Davide Gerosa, Michael Kesden, Emanuele Berti, Richard O'Shaughnessy, Ulrich Sperhake

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

83 Citations (Scopus)
118 Downloads (Pure)


We study the influence of astrophysical formation scenarios on the precessional dynamics of spinning black-hole binaries by the time they enter the observational window of second- and third-generation gravitational-wave detectors, such as Advanced LIGO/Virgo, LIGO-India, KAGRA, and the Einstein Telescope. Under the plausible assumption that tidal interactions are efficient at aligning the spins of few-solar mass black-hole progenitors with the orbital angular momentum, we find that black-hole spins should be expected to preferentially lie in a plane when they become detectable by gravitational-wave interferometers. This “resonant plane” is identified by the conditions ∆Φ=0° or ∆Φ=±180°, where ∆Φ is the angle between the components of the black-hole spins in the plane orthogonal to the orbital angular momentum. If the angles ∆Φ can be accurately measured for a large sample of gravitational-wave detections, their distribution will constrain models of compact binary formation. In particular, it will tell us whether tidal interactions are efficient and whether a mechanism such as mass transfer, stellar winds, or supernovae can induce a mass-ratio reversal (so that the heavier black hole is produced by the initially lighter stellar progenitor). Therefore, our model offers a concrete observational link between gravitational-wave measurements and astrophysics. We also hope that it will stimulate further studies of precessional dynamics, gravitational-wave template placement, and parameter estimation for binaries locked in the resonant plane.
Original languageEnglish
Article number104028
Number of pages24
JournalPhysical Review D
Publication statusPublished - 22 May 2013


Dive into the research topics of 'Resonant-plane locking and spin alignment in stellar-mass black-hole binaries: a diagnostic of compact-binary formation'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this