Reducing orbital eccentricity in binary black hole simulations

Harald P. Pfeiffer, Duncan A. Brown, Lawrence E. Kidder, Lee Lindblom, Geoffrey Lovelace, Mark A. Scheel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

166 Scopus citations


Binary black hole simulations starting from quasi-circular (i.e., zero radial velocity) initial data have orbits with small but nonzero orbital eccentricities. In this paper, the quasi-equilibrium initial-data method is extended to allow nonzero radial velocities to be specified in binary black hole initial data. New low-eccentricity initial data are obtained by adjusting the orbital frequency and radial velocities to minimize the orbital eccentricity, and the resulting (∼5 orbit) evolutions are compared with those of quasi-circular initial data. Evolutions of the quasi-circular data clearly show eccentric orbits, with eccentricity that decays over time. The precise decay rate depends on the definition of eccentricity; if defined in terms of variations in the orbital frequency, the decay rate agrees well with the prediction of Peters (1964 Phys. Rev. 136 1224-32). The gravitational waveforms, which contain ∼8 cycles in the dominant l ≤ m ≤ 2 mode, are largely unaffected by the eccentricity of the quasi-circular initial data. The overlap between the dominant mode in the quasi-circular evolution and the same mode in the low-eccentricity evolution is about 0.99.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberS06
Pages (from-to)S59-S81
JournalClassical and Quantum Gravity
Issue number12
StatePublished - Jun 21 2007
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physics and Astronomy (miscellaneous)


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