Rates and characteristics of intermediate mass ratio inspirals detectable by advanced ligo

Ilya Mandel, Duncan A. Brown, Jonathan R. Gair, M. Coleman Miller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

88 Scopus citations


Gravitational waves (GWs) from the inspirai of a neutron star (NS) or stellar-mass black hole (BH) into an intermediate-mass black hole (IMBH) with mass M ∼ 50-350 M may be detectable by the planned advanced generation of ground-based GW interferometers. Such intermediate mass ratio inspirals (IMRIs) are most likely to be found in globular clusters. We analyze four possible IMRI formation mechanisms: (1) hardening of an NS-IMBH or BH-IMBH binary via three-body interactions, (2) hardening via Kozai resonance in a hierarchical triple system, (3) direct capture, and (4) inspirai of a CO from a tidally captured main-sequence star; we also discuss tidal effects when the inspiraling object is an NS. For each mechanism we predict the typical eccentricities of the resulting IMRIs. We find that IMRIs will have largely circularized by the time they enter the sensitivity band of ground-based detectors. Hardening of a binary via three-body interactions, which is likely to be the dominant mechanism for IMRI formation, yields eccentricities under 10-4 when the GW frequency reaches 10 Hz. Even among IMRIs formed via direct captures, which can have the highest eccentricities, around 90% will circularize to eccentricities under 0.1 before the GW frequency reaches 10 Hz. We estimate the rate of IMRI coalescences in globular clusters and the sensitivity of a network of three Advanced LIGO detectors to the resulting GWs. We show that this detector network may see up to tens of IMRIs per year, although rates of one to a few per year may be more plausible. We also estimate the loss in signal-to-noise ratio that will result from using circular IMRI templates for data analysis and find that, for the eccentricities we expect, this loss is negligible.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1431-1447
Number of pages17
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jul 10 2008


  • Black hole physics
  • Globular clusters: general
  • Gravitational waves

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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