On choosing the start time of binary black hole ringdowns

Swetha Bhagwat, Maria Okounkova, Stefan W. Ballmer, Duncan A. Brown, Matthew Giesler, Mark A. Scheel, Saul A. Teukolsky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

58 Scopus citations


The final stage of a binary black hole merger is ringdown, in which the system is described by a Kerr black hole with quasinormal mode perturbations. It is far from straightforward to identify the time at which the ringdown begins. Yet determining this time is important for precision tests of the general theory of relativity that compare an observed signal with quasinormal mode descriptions of the ringdown, such as tests of the no-hair theorem. We present an algorithmic method to analyze the choice of ringdown start time in the observed waveform. This method is based on determining how close the strong field is to a Kerr black hole (Kerrness). Using numerical relativity simulations, we characterize the Kerrness of the strong-field region close to the black hole using a set of local, gauge-invariant geometric and algebraic conditions that measure local isometry to Kerr. We produce a map that associates each time in the gravitational waveform with a value of each of these Kerrness measures; this map is produced by following outgoing null characteristics from the strong and near-field regions to the wave zone. We perform this analysis on a numerical relativity simulation with parameters consistent with GW150914 - the first gravitational-wave detection. We find that the choice of ringdown start time of 3 ms after merger used in the GW150914 study [B. P. Abbott (Virgo Collaboration and LIGO Scientific Collaboration), Phys. Rev. Lett. 116, 221101 (2016).PRLTAO0031-900710.1103/PhysRevLett.116.221101] to test general relativity corresponds to a high dimensionless perturbation amplitude of ∼7.5×10-3 in the strong-field region. This suggests that in higher signal-to-noise detections, one would need to start analyzing the signal at a later time for studies that depend on the validity of black hole perturbation theory.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number104065
JournalPhysical Review D
Issue number10
StatePublished - May 15 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physics and Astronomy (miscellaneous)


Dive into the research topics of 'On choosing the start time of binary black hole ringdowns'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this